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German court drops Pechstein’s damages lawsuit against ISU

Olympic speed skating champion Claudia Pechstein’s claim for damages against the International Skating Union (ISU) over a doping ban was ruled inadmissible by Germany’s Federal Court of Justice today (Tuesday), the latest development in a long-running case which holds major implications for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Reuters news agency said the Federal Court, Germany’s highest for civil and criminal jurisdiction, ruled that the country’s domestic courts should not hear Pechstein’s case after CAS had rejected her appeal over a ban issued by the ISU.

Pechstein (pictured), a five-time Olympic champion for Germany, was suspended from competition for two years in 2009, despite never failing a drugs test, on the back of irregular blood results. The 44-year-old claims the blood results in question were a result of a genetic condition and has continued to protest her innocence amid appeal rejections by the Lausanne-based CAS and the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT).

Pechstein’s case generated further headlines last year when world footballers’ union FIFPro pledged financial support to her battle. FIFPro believed the case highlighted 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.

Despite her rejections before CAS and the SFT, a Munich court allowed Pechstein to move forward with her €4m ($4.53m) lawsuit over lost earnings in January 2015. Her case had been seen as a litmus test, with victory potentially leading to a raft of doping cases being challenged in domestic courts around the world, calling into question the authority of CAS in such matters. CAS is recognised by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) as the final independent and impartial authority in the resolution of doping cases.

The Federal Court said today that an arbitration agreement between Pechstein and the ISU at the time she had tested positive, which ruled out taking the case to a domestic court, was valid. “The anti-trust division of the Federal Court of Justice did not follow the argumentation of the plaintiff,” it said in a statement. “It decides that her suit is inadmissible as it is opposed by the defence of the arbitration agreement.”

Pechstein has vowed to continue her fight at the Federal Constitutional Court. “Despite this verdict I am not considering giving up,” she wrote on her website. “The battle for justice will be continued at the Federal Constitutional Court.”

Pechstein missed the 2010 winter Olympic Games in Vancouver due to the ISU ban, but returned to compete at Sochi 2014 and is targeting a place at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.