Legal dispute on cross-country skier not being admitted to the Olympic games

Magnusson Latvia partner Artūrs Ševčuks is a legal representative of Latvian cross-country skier Indulis Bikše who had qualified for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. However, shortly before he left for the Olympics, the Latvian Ski Federation (LSF) withdrew Bikše from the competition by a decision of its Board. During the Board meeting on 19 January 2022 it was stated that the reason for withdrawal was because the athlete and his father Zintis Bikše was making statements about the Federation with defamatory and false information to the press and the police, thus undermining the image of the Ski Federation. In particular, the interview with “Latvijas Avīze” by Indulis Bikše’s father and coach Zintis highlighted that Bikše had not received a single euro from the federation during the Olympic season.

“According to the LSF accounting data, on 10 November 2021 Indulis Bikše submitted an advance request and received an advance of EUR 2 500 to his bank account for a training camp in Finland and participation in the World Cup in Ruka, for which no reports and supporting documents were submitted.”

Artūrs Ševčuks, Partner at Magnusson Law Latvia and the legal representative of Indulis Bikše, explains that this was funding from the Latvian Olympic Team, which the Ski Federation merely transferred as an intermediary. This is also confirmed by the contract between the athlete and the Federation. Therefore, the claim that not a single euro has been received from the Federation is, in the opinion of Artūrs Ševčuks, true.

The second episode that cost Bikše his participation in the Olympics was his father’s report to the police, suspecting that the Ski Federation might have misappropriated the €1 000 funding granted to Bikše by the Madona municipality. The minutes of the Federation’s board meeting show that Zintis Bikše said that the money was so scarce that he had waited for it while on the road, but that his relatives had later helped.

“The LSF Board, having checked the emails received from the joint email of Indulis Bikše and Zints Bikše, notes that the LSF has not received any requests for payment of the funding provided by the Madona municipality.”

The Federation’s explanations read that the funding was available and had not been spent, all Bikše had to do was ask for it. The athlete and his father said that this was done verbally, but the reply received by LSF was that there was no funding. The Federation’s explanations also states that it was not obliged to inform the athlete that funding was available. Regardless of this, both the application to the police and the interview with “Latvijas Avīze” were given by Indulis’ father Zintis, not by the athlete himself, who was withdrawn from the Olympics.

“Indulis Bikše is being punished for the actions of a third party. I draw attention to the fact that Indulis has not taken any action, but this particular decision has been taken with regard to Indulis.” Says Artūrs Ševčuks. He continues: “All the information that has been stated and provided to the police is, in our opinion, justified and true. And I say again: if someone thinks that there is something untrue, don’t be blustering and saying that everything is bad, let’s put it this way, and there is no clarity anywhere. No! Then one should exercise one’s right and even one’s duty to go to court and ask for the claims to be retracted. The Federation has not done that.”

Bikše’s lawsuit is filed not only against the Latvian Ski Federation, but also against the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOC), as it approves the composition of the participants. The Olympic Committee respected the decision of the Ski Federation, as the autonomy of federations is stipulated in the Olympic Charter. However, such a precedent could lead to situations where other athletes are left out of the Olympic Games as a result of internal disagreements.

Raitis Keselis, Head of the LOC Legal Service says: “It is first and foremost the federation’s own decision. I would not like to believe that the federation would have reached this situation in cooperation with athletes with whom communication is completely normal, where there are no previous problems of this kind of cooperation. There have been cases where the Olympic Committee has intervened. I suppose that the Latvian Olympic Committee, first of all, tries to support all athletes, but secondly, it tries to take care of the development of high-performance sport in the country.”

Bikše and his supporting team explains their activities as both by a desire to put the sports legislation in order and to draw attention to the activities of the Ski Federation, and by a desire to claim compensation. The amount would include both the costs of preparation for the Olympic Games and compensation for moral damages. The Latvian Ski Federation did not wish to comment on the situation, stating that its position can be read in the minutes of the Board meetings. In early February, the Administrative District Court did not accept Bikše’s application. Disagreeing with the court’s decision, a secondary complaint was lodged with the Supreme Court.