Frequently asked questions.
1. What is the Sports Tribunal?
The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand is the independent statutory body that hears and decides certain types of disputes and other matters for the New Zealand sports sector. The aim of the Tribunal is to ensure that national sport organisations, athletes and other parties to a sports dispute have access to an affordable, just and speedy means of resolving a sports dispute.
2. What’s the difference between the Sports Tribunal and the Sports Disputes Tribunal?
It’s essentially the same Tribunal with a name change. The Sports Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand was established in 2003 by the Board of Sport and Recreation New Zealand (formerly SPARC, now Sport New Zealand) as an independent body to decide sports disputes. The Sports Anti-Doping Act 2006 continued the Tribunal as a statutory body and gave it greater jurisdiction and powers. The Act also changed the name of the Tribunal to the Sports Tribunal.
3. What sorts of disputes does the Sports Tribunal hear and decide?
The types of disputes the Tribunal can hear and decide are set out in the Sports Anti-Doping Act 2006. These include:
- Anti-doping violations.
- Appeals against decisions made by a National Sporting Organisation (NSO) or the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) - so long as the rules of the NSO or NZOC specifically allow for an appeal to the Tribunal in relation to that issue. Such appeals could include:
- appeals against disciplinary decisions
- appeals against not being selected for a NZ team or squad.
- Other sports-related disputes that all the parties to the dispute agree to refer to the Tribunal and the Tribunal agrees to hear.
- Matters referred to the Tribunal by the board of Sport and Recreation New Zealand (formerly SPARC, now Sport New Zealand).
4. My NSO has made an unfair decision in relation to me. Can the Tribunal do anything to help me?
You may be able to bring an appeal against that decision to the Sports Tribunal. However, there are some conditions that all have to be satisfied first before the Tribunal can hear an appeal:
- The constitution, rules or regulations of the NSO must specifically allow for an appeal of that kind to be made to the Tribunal.
- All the internal appeal procedures of the NSO have got to be completed first.
- The Appeal is made within the time limits set out in the NOS’s rules (or within 28 days if no time limit is set out)
- The appeal must fall within the grounds of appeal stated in the NSO’s rules. If there are no grounds of appeal in the NSO’s rules, then it must fall within the default grounds of appeal set out in the Sports Tribunal’s Rules.
If the above conditions aren’t satisfied, there is no right to bring an appeal against the NSO’s decision to the Tribunal. However, even if these grounds aren’t satisfied, it may still be possible to bring an appeal to the Tribunal so long as the NSO agrees to the Tribunal hearing it.
See Dispute types and process for further information.
5. I don’t agree with a decision my sports club has made. Can I refer this to the Tribunal?
The Tribunal generally hears appeals and disputes at a national level and there is no right to appeal a decision of a club directly to the Sports Tribunal. If there is an appeal procedure from the club’s decision then you should follow that.
However, it may be possible for the Tribunal to hear the matter if all the parties to the dispute agree that the Tribunal should hear it and the dispute is “sports-related”.
The Tribunal also has to agree to hear the matter. While the Tribunal is usually willing to hear a dispute parties have agreed to refer, the Tribunal might not agree to hear it if there were still internal appeal procedures within the sport to be completed or the matter was frivolous or there was no realistic remedy the Tribunal could provide.
See Dispute types and process for more information.
6. I've been informed I've tested positive to a prohibited substance. What happens next?
You will normally be given the opportunity by Drug Free Sport New Zealand to decide whether you want your B sample analysed to confirm the presence of the prohibited substance.
In the meantime, Drug Free Sport New Zealand usually applies to the Sports Tribunal to have a preliminary hearing to have you provisionally suspended. The Tribunal usually hears provisional suspension applications urgently. If the Tribunal makes a provisional suspension order, this means you are prohibited in participating in sport until the Tribunal can hear the alleged anti-doping matter and make a final decision.
Following the provisional suspension proceedings, Drug Free Sport usually reviews all the evidence (you may have requested a B sample test and the test results may not have been received until after the provisional suspension proceedings) and decides whether to refer the alleged anti-doping violation (‘substantive’ case) to the Tribunal or not to proceed further. In the majority of cases, the substantive case will be referred to the Tribunal.
If Drug Free Sport refers the substantive case to the Tribunal, the Tribunal will have a hearing (often by teleconference but sometimes in person) to decide whether you have committed an anti-doping violation and if so, what the penalty should be. The Tribunal will give you the opportunity to have your say, make submissions and have witnesses. Before the hearing, you will get the opportunity to admit or deny the violation and file a written defence and/or submissions about the circumstances of the violation and what the penalty should be. At the hearing, you will get a chance to make oral submissions and have witnesses appear on your behalf.
If the Tribunal imposes a penalty of a period of suspension, it will take into account any time you have been provisionally suspended and "credit" (ie take off) that period when deciding the appropriate penalty.
7. Where do I find out what substances and drugs are banned in sport?
The substances and drugs that are prohibited (banned) in sport are published each year by the World Anti- Doping Authority (WADA) in the WADA Prohibited List. The Prohibited List can be viewed at the websites of WADA and Drug Free Sport New Zealand.
Further information about prohibited substances can also be found on Drug Free Sport’s website as well as the Sports Anti-Doping Rules (based on the WADA Code) which set out the various rules governing anti-doping violations in New Zealand.
8. What are the penalties for taking prohibited substances?
Penalties for anti-doping violations are set out in the Sports Anti-Doping Rules and are the same as those set out in the WADA Code. The most common penalty is a period of ineligibility (that is, suspension), which prevents an athlete participating in any capacity in sports that are signatories to the WADA Code. This generally means the athlete will not be permitted to compete, train with a team, coach or otherwise participate in most sports (not just their own sport) during the time they are suspended.
Penalties may vary, depending on the type of prohibited substance involved or the type of anti-doping violation.
9. What about cannabis, is that banned in sport?
Yes. Cannabis is banned in sport. Marijuana and cannabinoids were added to the WADA Prohibited List in 2004. Synthetic cannabinoids are also banned.
10. How much does it cost to use the Tribunal?
There are filing fees to bring certain disputes to the Tribunal.
- It costs $500 to appeal a decision of an NSO or the NZOC .
- It costs $250 per party to refer a Sports-Related Dispute by agreement.
- There is no filing fee in relation to anti-doping matters.
The Tribunal usually pays other costs related to the process itself such as: teleconferencing; hearing venue hire (if required); translation costs (for parties wishing to address the Tribunal in Maori or New Zealand Sign language); and fees and expenses of Tribunal members.
Parties need to pay their own costs in relation to matters such as hiring a legal representative (there is no requirement to have a legal representative) and travel costs to attend a hearing in person (if required).
11. I can’t afford the filing fee, is there any way I can get it reduced?
The Tribunal can choose to waive the whole, or part of, the filing fee in cases of hardship. You will usually need to provide the Tribunal with reasons why the filing fee should be reduced or waived and some evidence of your financial circumstances.
12. How do I bring a dispute to the Tribunal?
An application form needs to be completed. This form can be downloaded from this website or contact the Registrar at the Tribunal’s offices. There is an application form for each type of dispute. For example:
- Anti-Doping - Application alleging anti-doping rule violation - Form 1
- Anti-Doping - Application for provisional suspension - Form 6
- Anti-Doping - Application appealing decision to deny TUE - Form 10
- Appeal against a decision of an NSO or NZOC - Form 3
- Other sports-related dispute referred by agreement - Form 9
Each form outlines the information the Tribunal needs. The form should then be filed (sent to the Tribunal's office) along with a payment of the filing fee. The Tribunal will accept filing of an application by email and payment by post.
The Registrar is happy to be contacted if you wish to discuss filing an application with the Tribunal.
13. What’s the process for cases being heard and decided?
The Tribunal will establish the facts of a dispute and provide each party with the opportunity to put its case and be present when the other party is stating its case. The Tribunal will take into account the individual circumstances, needs and reasonable wishes of the parties. The process involves five steps:
Step 1 - Application
An application form needs to be completed and filed with the Tribunal. Application forms can be downloaded from this website or contact the Registrar at the Tribunal’s offices. There is an application form for each type of dispute. Once the Form is completed, it should be filed (sent to the Tribunal's office) along with a payment of the filing fee.
Step 2 - Advice of proceedings and filing other documents
The Registrar acknowledges receipt of the application and advises the Tribunal that an application has been received. Depending on the type of application, other forms may also need to be filed at a later date. See Specific types of proceedings for further information about the steps required. Generally the Registrar will manage communication between parties and the Tribunal.
Step 3 - Pre-hearing proceedings
The chairperson will usually hold a pre-hearing discussion with all involved parties. This is called a ‘pre-hearing’ conference and will usually be done through teleconferencing (by telephone). Pre-hearing conferences are generally concerned with preliminary and/or procedural matters leading up to the hearing. The Chairperson can make any direction necessary for the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of the proceeding.
In some cases, the Tribunal may suggest that the parties refer a dispute to an alternative form of resolution such as mediation. The Tribunal is able to offer mediation assistance itself in appropriate cases.
Step 4 - The hearing
The hearing gives all involved parties the opportunity to present their case to the Tribunal. The Tribunal follows the principles of ‘natural justice’, which means that all parties have a fair opportunity to understand the issues, to consider all the relevant material and to prepare and to present their evidence.
All the parties may not need to be physically present at a hearing. Where appropriate, hearings may be conducted by teleconference. In some cases, the Tribunal will be able to decide the dispute by reviewing the written submissions and documents filed by the parties.
The Tribunal considers any evidence that it thinks is relevant and may require evidence to be provided on oath or affirmation. The Tribunal has wide powers to inspect and examine documents, and can require witnesses to attend hearings and produce documents or other material for examination.
After all submissions and evidence are presented, the Tribunal will confer privately in order to make a decision.
Step 5 - The Tribunal decision
The Tribunal aims to make decisions that are not only fair and well-reasoned, but also speedy and timely. Some cases, such as appeals against not being selected for a New Zealand team, will often require urgency. If appropriate, the Tribunal may make an oral decision at the end of the hearing.
In most cases, the Tribunal will need further time to consider the matter and will “reserve” its decision. This means it will let the parties know its decision at a later date.
The Tribunal always releases a written decision to all the parties, with an explanation of the reasons for the decision. After the Tribunal has released its decision to the parties, it usually issues a media statement and posts the decision and other information on the Tribunal’s website.
14. What does mediation mean and does the Tribunal do it?
Mediation is a process by which an independent person helps parties explore whether they can reach agreement and settle their dispute.
While most disputes referred to the Tribunal are resolved by the Tribunal making a decision after a hearing, the Tribunal can offer mediation assistance to parties who request and agree to it.
The Tribunal has the power to order mediation to take place if it considers it appropriate. However, the Tribunal cannot order that a dispute must be resolved through mediation. For a dispute to be resolved through mediation, the parties have to agree on the outcome. Mediation assistance may be provided by the Tribunal or an independent person. It is not available in anti-doping cases.
15. Can the Tribunal hear cases urgently?
The Tribunal can hear cases urgently if necessary and has heard and decided cases in short time frames (as short as within 24 hours on occasion) in the past. The Tribunal has on occasions heard matters in weekends or at night. This is usually when there is some external deadline (such as a final date for selection) is looming for the parties. The Tribunal will generally try and accommodate the needs of the parties if urgency is required and if it is able to do so.
However, in order for the Tribunal to hear a case urgently generally all the parties need to agree that the matter needs to be heard urgently and co-operate and be able to file documents and information at short notice and be ready to present their evidence and have the matter heard. The parties will need to notify the Tribunal that urgency is required when the matter is filed.
The Tribunal Rules provide for certain time periods for parties to file and respond to Forms and documents and if a matter is heard urgently the parties will have to agree to file their documents earlier than would be required under these time periods. As hearing a matter under urgency means the normal time frames a party has to consider matters and file their documents will need to be waived, the Tribunal will need to decide whether hearing the matter under urgency is appropriate and what times frames are appropriate and realistic. The Tribunal will generally be reluctant to grant urgency to hear a matter if doing so will unduly prejudice a party.
16. Where do hearings take place?
Some hearings can be conducted by teleconference which means the parties can ring in from wherever suits them using their own telephones.
Other hearings may need to take place “in person” with the parties and the Tribunal gathered in one place to hear the matter. In such cases, the Tribunal decides in which city or town the hearing will take place. Although the Tribunal’s office is based in Wellington, this does not mean that hearings will take place in Wellington. The Tribunal has held hearings in many different places around New Zealand. The Tribunal takes into account the wishes of all the parties, where the parties live and where it would be most convenient for all the parties in deciding where the hearing will be.
17. Are hearings held in private?
Hearings in anti-doping cases are confidential and not open to the public. Hearings in other types of disputes will also usually be in private unless the Tribunal decides that there are exceptional circumstances making a public hearing appropriate or the parties agree to a public hearing.
18. Are Tribunal decisions made public?
Proceedings before the Tribunal are private and confidential until a final decision is issued.
However, the Tribunal usually publishes its final decision on its website at the conclusion of a case.
In anti-doping cases, the Tribunal reports its decision in accordance with the relevant anti-doping rules, which require the Tribunal to publish its final decision if the athlete is found to have committed an anti-doping violation. However, if the Tribunal decides the athlete has not committed an anti-doping violation, the decision can only be published if the athlete consents to this.
Final decisions in other cases are also published, unless the Tribunal decides otherwise.
19. Does the Tribunal order parties to pay costs?
The Tribunal has the power to award costs in favour of any party or itself as the Tribunal thinks fit.
However, unlike the courts, there is no costs scale and there is no presumption that costs will be awarded to the successful party. The practice of the Tribunal has been to only award costs in “exceptional circumstances”.
20. How do I enforce a decision of the Tribunal if the other party won't comply with the decision?
Decisions and orders of the Tribunal may be enforced in New Zealand courts under the law of contract.
21. Can Tribunal decisions be appealed?
In general, the decisions of the Tribunal are final and binding and can’t be questioned by or appealed to any New Zealand court of law. However, in certain circumstances decisions may be appealed to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (if the rules of the relevant sport’s International Federation or NSO allow for this). Rule 28 of the Tribunal’s Rules provides further details about this.