The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has strongly criticised a German court for allowing a lawsuit from five-time Olympic speed skating champion Claudia Pechstein in relation to her doping ban.
Pechstein was suspended from competition for two years in 2009, despite never failing a drugs test, on the back of irregular blood results. The 43-year-old claims the blood results in question were as a result of a genetic condition and has continued to protest her innocence amid appeal rejections by Lausanne-based CAS and the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT).
In January, a Munich court stated that Pechstein’s ban from the International Skating Union (ISU) was “void” and that it “did not recognise the decision by CAS”. The athlete is seeking damages in excess of €4m ($4.23m) relating to lost revenues, but CAS has moved to outline the potential wider implications of her case.
"Claudia Pechstein had a fair trial, not only before the CAS Panel but also before the SFT, and the judgment of the SFT, which remains in force, should have settled this matter definitively in 2010," CAS said in a statement. "(She) decided voluntarily to refer her case to CAS and neither challenged the CAS jurisdiction… nor the arbitrators comprising the arbitral panel.
“If, like in the Pechstein/ISU case, arbitration agreements were to be considered as invalid by state courts… then the basic principles of international arbitration would be compromised. The fact that state courts would reopen cases involving their national athletes endangers the international effectiveness and the harmony of the decisions rendered in disciplinary matters related to sport.
"The risk of contradictory decisions would be also higher with athletes being able to compete in certain countries but not in others. This would affect the credibility of sport more generally.”
CAS hears around 400 cases annually and is recognised by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the final independent and impartial authority in the resolution of doping cases.