Finding and hiring the right lawyer can make all the difference in the world. This is not an exaggeration. Reputation, time, money and stress just scratch the surface of the long list of reasons why. A recent case offers a great illustration of the costs — personal, financial and more — that can occur when the right lawyer isn’t hired the first time.
We recently represented an Olympic athlete in an appeal of an anti-doping case that perfectly illustrates how important it is to hire the right lawyer as soon as possible. This athlete was charged with an anti-doping violation for a violation of Article 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, for three missed tests and/or filing failures within a twelve-month period. The case was brought in Italy, and the athlete hired an Italian lawyer based in large part on cost. This first lawyer did not challenge any of the 3 missed tests / filing failures, choosing instead to make other arguments as to why no violation should be found. The Italian Anti-Doping Agency asked that the athlete be suspended for 18 months; and the first tribunal found that the athlete had violated Art. 2.4 and suspended the athlete for 18 months. The suspension was publicized, damaging the athlete’s reputation.
It was at this point that the athlete contacted our firm. We went through the facts of each of the missed tests / filing failures in detail with the athlete and discovered that one of the filing failures should not have been recorded against the athlete. The Italian Anti-Doping Agency had set a deadline of March 15 for the athlete to submit his 2nd quarter whereabouts (for the period from April 1 to June 30); and on March 16 notified the athlete that he had not submitted his 2nd quarter whereabouts within this deadline. When he received this email, the athlete submitted his 2nd quarter whereabouts (for the period from April 1 to June 30) on the same day (March 16). The Italian Anti-Doping Agency — in what was ultimately determined to be in error — nevertheless declared this as a filing failure, making it the athlete’s third missed test / filing failure in a twelve-month period.
The rules state that athletes who are entered into a Registered Testing Pool are required to submit their Quarter 2 Whereabouts information by April 1; and that while an earlier deadline of March 15 may be imposed by a National Anti-Doping Organization for submission of the second quarter whereabouts, no filing failure may be declared so long as the athlete submits those whereabouts before April 1. It was on the basis of this rule that we appealed the 18-month sanction.
When the first lawyer became uncooperative, we chose to represent the athlete before the Italian national anti-doping appeals board without the assistance of an Italian lawyer. Following a hearing, the appeals board agreed that the third filing failure should not have been recorded and found that no violation had occurred and lifted the sanction.
The athlete made the unfortunate mistake of trying to save money, when he would have been better served by hiring the right lawyer in the first place. He ended up spending as much or more money on the appeal to undo the violation than he would have spent had he hired our firm in the first place. Even more upsetting, had he hired our firm from the beginning, he likely never would have been sanctioned, and there would have been nothing negative to be published about him. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to hire the right lawyer / law firm the first time.