No end to the Claudia Pechstein doping affair
Germany’s DOSB Olympic Sports Confederation has once again opened up the case of the five-time Olympic champion which has been smoldering for more than five years, and asked five recognized experts to assess the much-discussed medical issues related to the suspicion of doping. The coordination of the group has been taken over by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jelkmann, the Director of the Institute of Physiology at the University of Lübeck. The experts will evaluate all the submitted medical opinions and diagnoses that have been made on this case so far.
In addition to Professor Jelkmann, the team of experts includes Prof. Dr. Mathias Freund, Executive Chairman of the German Society for Hematology and Medical Oncology, Prof. Dr. Else Heidemann, Chief Physician and Specialist in Hematology and Oncology at the Diakonie-Klinikum Stuttgart, Prof. Dr . Wilhelm Schänzer, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry at the German Sport University Cologne, as well as Prof. Dr. Alberto Zanella, long-time Director of the Hematology department of the University Hospital of Milan. The world-renowned Italian hematologist was one of the experts of the International Skating Union (ISU) in the case against Claudia Pechstein.
“In the Pechstein case there are big questions to be answered. The question arises as to whether we have an athlete who was the perpetrator or the victim. We want to check to what extent the image of the doping-using Claudia Pechstein must, if necessary, be corrected in public. Should this turn out to be a case of injustice, we cannot allow it to stand. We have a great responsibility to our athletes, which we are facing up to here with all the resulting consequences”, says DOSB President Alfons Hörmann. When the results would be available, could not be foreseen at the moment, according to Hörmann.
Claudia Pechstein was suspended for two years in June 2009 by the ISU on grounds of indirect doping evidence, based on increased reticulocyte values. The CAS Court of Arbitration for Sport had confirmed the ban in November 2009. The Swiss Federal Court rejected Pechstein’s notice of appeal against the CAS decision in September 2010. Numerous medical experts have since been repeatedly pointed out that Claudia Pechstein could have been wrongly convicted because she has a blood abnormality inherited from her father, which could explain her increased reticulocyte values. The experts commissioned by the DOSB should now investigate this issue once again and decide whether a doping offense can be deduced based on the existing data.
“The case of Claudia Pechstein is unique and it will probably remain so, as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) fundamentally revised its regulations shortly after the process in 2009”, explained the DOSB in a press release. “Following this change in the rules, it is mandatory that several blood parameters are noticeable in order to provide indirect evidence of a possible doping offense”.
This article was republished with permission from the editor and publisher of the Sport Intern, Karl-Heinz Huba.