Five-time Olympic champion German speed skater Claudia Pechstein today awaits a decision from an arbitral tribunal of the ad hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), hoping for a reprieve from a two-year suspension imposed a year ago when blood tests indicated use of performance enhancing drugs.
Respondents in the case are the German National Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee. The International Skating Union also appears as an interested party.
Ms. Pechstein previously lost an appeal of the suspension before another CAS arbitral tribunal in November 2009, and last month the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland refused to grant temporary relief to permit Ms. Pechstein to compete in Vancouver.
According to news reports, the CAS award in November was based on blood tests that showed high levels of a particular chemical in red blood cells, a condition consistent with use of performance enhancers but also explainable on other grounds. Ms. Pechstein is said to have maintained that the test results are attributable to a congenital medical condition.
Respondents’ objection to the jurisdiction of the tribunal in Vancouver has been briefed and a decision is anticipated today or Friday. Ms. Pechstein hopes to compete in the 5,000 meter event on February 24.
The CAS, whose seat is in Lausanne, has operated ad hoc divisions at each of the Olympic Games since Atlanta in 1996. A roster of eight arbitrators is on call to convene in three-member tribunals appointed by the President of the ad hoc Division, to sit in emergency sessions, and to decide cases on a very expedited basis consistent with the requirements of the case in relation to forthcoming competitions.
The CAS Arbitration Rules for the Olympic Games may be downloaded from the CAS website (www.tas-cas.org/adhoc-rules). The Rules require an athlete to exhaust remedies before a sports federation or national Olympic committee having juroisdiction of the matter before filing a CAS Olympics case. While the hearing venues will be in Vancouver or at nearby Olympic venues, the seat of these arbitrations is Lausanne and Chapter 12 of the Swiss Act on Private International Law applies.
The Rules provide for an immediate evidentiary hearing, but further state: “If it considers itself to be sufficiently well informed, the Panel may decide not to hold a hearing and to render an award immediately.” The applicable law, per the Rules, shall be “the Olympic Charter, the applicable regulations, gemeral principles of law and the rules of law, the application of which [the tribunal] deems appropriate.” If no majority can be formed, the presiding arbitrator may decide alone.