World footballers’ union FIFPro has pledged financial support to German Olympic speed skating champion Claudia Pechstein in her fight for damages concerning a 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 the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT).
FIFPro believes the case highlights its own concerns over the powers enjoyed by CAS, having previously clashed with sport’s highest tribunal over its role in shaping football’s current transfer system.
“FIFPro expresses its moral, political and financial support for…Claudia Pechstein, who is leading a legal battle…to defend her innocence and her right to a fair and impartial legal procedure since 2009,” FIFPro said in a statement. “Pechstein's fight for her own rights can positively impact those of thousands of professional athletes around the world, among them the 65,000 footballers represented by FIFPro.”
Despite her rejections before CAS and the SFT, a Munich court allowed Pechstein to move forward with her €4m ($4.37m) lawsuit over lost earnings in January.
"Every athlete as a citizen and worker has the right to a fair process and to be judged in an independent and impartial court," FIFPro added. "The decisions of the regional courts in Germany in Claudia Pechstein's case have confirmed that this right was not duly granted by CAS at the time of her anti-doping case.
"Urgent reform is needed in which athletes must play an active and equal role. We are convinced that Ms. Pechstein with our support will take a historic step in the near future to help install an arbitration system, which respects the rights of all athletes."
CAS reacted with “disbelief” to FIFPro’s stance on the Pechstein case, citing a recent approach for collaboration from the organisation. In a statement to Reuters, CAS secretary general Mathieu Reeb said: "CAS notes with disbelief that FIFPro is criticising the CAS system after it has collaborated with us to propose independent arbitrators to be appointed to the list of CAS members.
“No later than last month, I was in contact with the FIFPro secretary general who confirmed the intention of FIFPro to collaborate more closely with CAS. Unfortunately, there are clearly different political streams within FIFPro and one can wonder if it is the role of a football players' union to fund a speed skater who has been found guilty of a doping offence.”