By Stephanie Nebehay
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) heard a record number of appeals in 2008, and expects the new anti-doping code to bring even more litigation in 2009, officials said on Tuesday.
Nearly 300 appeals were filed at the highest judicial body for sporting disputes this year.
About 55 percent of the cases were linked to soccer -- including players' broken contracts, transfers and club licenses -- while one-third sprang from doping offences in various sports, CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb said.
"The record has been broken, 287 cases have been registered so far this year, including 10 procedures related to the Olympics. There are still some days left in December, so we'll be close to 300 cases," Reeb told a news briefing.
Among CAS's most memorable rulings this year was the lifting of a ban preventing South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius from competing against able-bodied athletes.
The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) argued unsuccessfully before CAS that Pistorius's artificial limbs gave him an unfair advantage.
The court also upheld a two-year doping ban on U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis over a failed drugs test during the 2006 Tour de France.
The Lausanne-based court, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in June, has seen its role steadily expand, especially after FIFA recognised its jurisdiction in 2004. A network of 266 arbitrators from 77 countries issue its rulings.
"NOTHING TO LOSE"
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)'s new code, which comes into force on Jan. 1, steps up the war on performance-enhancing drugs. It will give sport's federations greater scope suspending for players who test positive, according to Reeb.
"The athletes will have nothing to lose in coming to us to try to get their suspensions reduced. We'll have to be vigilant in maintaining our rapid procedures," the Swiss lawyer said.
"There will be a small increase (in the number of cases heard) especially in the beginning when the code is starting to be applied," Reeb added.
Cases currently pending include an appeal filed by Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco last month against a two-year ban for doping handed down by the Italian Olympic Committee.
Last week, the IAAF asked CAS to double the two-year suspensions imposed on seven female Russian athletes for manipulating doping samples.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA), which oversees Formula One races, is among the latest federations to accept CAS' final say, from Jan. 1, according to Reeb.
"They have decided to recognise CAS' jurisdiction in anti-doping matters...It is still a first step, an opening towards the CAS," he said. (Editing by Mark Ledsom and Padraic Halpin)comments