Five-time Olympic speed-skating champion Claudia Pechstein has been allowed to proceed by a Munich court with her lawsuit seeking damages from the International Skating Union (ISU) over a doping ban – setting a potential precedent for other similar cases after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against the move.
The announcement marks the first time a German civil court will hear a case that the world’s top sports court has rejected and could clear the path for more athletes to challenge CAS rulings in the future.
Pechstein (pictured) is Germany’s most decorated winter Olympian, with nine medals in total, but was banned for two years by the ISU in 2009 on the back of irregular blood results, despite never failing a drugs test.
The 42-year-old claimed the blood results in question were as a result of a genetic condition and has continued to protest her innocence, demanding damages in excess of €4m ($4.96m) relating to lost revenues, despite CAS upholding the suspension.
The Munich Appeal Court declared the ISU decision on the ban to be “void” and said in its statement that it “did not recognise the decision by CAS”. Judge Rainer Zwirlein questioned the impartiality of CAS in his ruling because sports federations such as the ISU have a say in naming judges to the body. The ISU will now take the matter to the Federal Court of Justice – Germany’s top court for civil jurisdiction – before the case can return to a courtroom.
"They (ISU) took everything from me but I keep on fighting," Pechstein said, according to the Reuters news agency. "I now have the chance in a proper court, a German court. There I am confident because the ISU must now prove that I doped. There will never be a positive test from me and that is why I am confident."