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Sports

Opinion: Pechstein ruling a victory for doping inspectors

Speed skater and Olympic medalist Claudia Pechstein remains banned from the sport. It may be a bitter loss for her, but it strengthens the hand of doping investigators, says DW's Stefan Nestler.

A pen resting on a table. The word 'Opinion' is written across a blue ribbon.

The judgement from the international Court of Arbitration of Sport in the Claudia Pechstein case is cause for celebration for drug inspectors. Had the speed skater been successful in her appeal, investigators would have been thrust back into the old days when they were constantly playing catch-up with doping athletes.

As sports fraudsters used new, banned substances again and again, scientists had to be on their toes to develop legally acceptable tests to detect doping. Only those who were foolish - or too confident - were caught. The smart ones got away with it.

The indirect verification procedure that was included in the new Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) allows drug inspectors new freedoms in performing their job. If they can collect enough evidence, they can now convict an athlete.

Like any other lawsuit involving circumstantial evidence, there's still a possibility that an athlete could be wrongly banned from a sport. But where would the doping investigators be without naming and shaming? Even scientists make mistakes.

In Claudia Pechstein's case, even well-known doping experts had expressed doubts about the chain of circumstantial evidence. Must Pechstein serve as an example of a political decision in sports, as she herself has claimed?

It's not that simple. The judges had allowed themselves plenty of time to reach a decision. The judgment needed to be watertight before banning one of the most successful athletes in the world from her discipline.

But did the five-time Olympic winner really dope? It's very likely she did, but we cannot be 100 percent sure. In any case, Claudia Pechstein is considered guilty. Her career lies in ruins as a new wave of doping cases over suspicious blood-test results looms.

Stefan Nestler is a sports reporter at Deutsche Welle (gmb)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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