BiathlonGeneralNewsRacingCourt of Arbitration for Sport Cuts Sachenbacher-Stehle Sentence to Six Months

Avatar Chelsea LittleNovember 14, 201412
Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle leaving the range during the 2014 Olympic mass start race. She placed fourth, but was later disqualified after testing positive for a prohibted stimulant. Her ban was reduced from two years to six months, so she will return to competition.
Germany’s Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle leaving the range during the 2014 Olympic mass start race. She placed fourth, but was later disqualified after testing positive for a prohibted stimulant. Her ban was reduced from two years to six months, so she will return to competition.

Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle was banned from competition for two years by the International Biathlon Union (IBU) for testing positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Sachenbacher-Stehle claimed from the beginning that she ingested the banned supplement accidentally in one of her several herbal supplements, and in her hearing with the IBU presented test results obtained after the fact to show that, indeed, one of her supplements did contain the substance. Methylhexanamine has been the culprit in many accidental-positive cases across sports. However, the IBU had little sympathy and still applied the maximum ban possible, the same amount of time it doled out to a Russian who tested positive for the blood-doping drug recombinant erythropoetin.

Sachenbacher-Stehle was disappointed with the ruling, and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Their board, headed by Italy’s Luigi Fumagalli, ruled that the ban should be only partially upheld: they reduced the sentence to six months.

Since Sachenbacher-Stehle began her suspension at the Olympics, more than six months have now passed.

She is therefore eligible to start again in the coming season,” IBU Communications Director Peer Lange wrote in an email to the media this afternoon.

CAS also ruled that the IBU owes Sachenbacher-Stehle 7,500 Euros to cover her legal fees.

The specific reasoning for the decision is not currently available, but Lange wrote that more details would be released soon.

The ruling is in line with many past decisions by CAS and individual federations in methylhexaneamine cases, where sentences for tennis players, swimmers, and track athletes among others have often reduced to six months or one year as opposed to two years.

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Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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12 comments

  • Avatar
    x0etrem

    November 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I don’t like this ruling. It’s basically a free pass for athletes to load up on supplements at the end of the season in hopes that they will contain banned substances and an unfair advantage. If you fail a test, who cares? You just appeal, serve your “suspension” in the off-season, and it doesn’t even cost anything because IBU has to pay your legal fees.

  • Avatar
    Tim Kelley

    November 14, 2014 at 11:06 am

    When a body of governance is named the “Court of Arbitration”, you can expect illogical decisions. The root of the word arbitration is the same as the root of word arbitrary. And the definition of arbitrary is: “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system”. Making decisions that are “based on random choice or personal whim” doesn’t help the sport.

  • Avatar
    highstream

    November 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    It’s easy for people who never have anything they take checked by a lab, who are never tested randomly and frequently, to take moralistic shots at athletes who pushing themselves to the limits and trying to maximize their ability to do so legitimately. Better you aim at capitalist corporations who knowlingly or sloppily adulterate products for profit, or flag-waving federations, media and sponsors who in effect pay for performance under the name of promoting athletics.

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    November 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Highstream – your point is nonsensical. Each athlete signs an agreement before entering competition. I am free to take whatever I chose as I do not compete. I agree that if she demonstrated that her doping was inadvertent that her suspension should not be the same as one who injects EPO. Whether her suspension was too long or the EPO user’s too short – that’s debatable. Nonetheless, the rules are clear. She is required to know what she is ingesting. She made a foolish mistake. Do you suppose she should not receive any suspension?

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    November 14, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    It could be reasonably argued that she is pretty hot, so maybe they took time off for that?

  • Avatar
    sporto

    November 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Her history is a bit suspect. Gold and silver in Salt Lake (2002) – the golden age of EPO and such. At Turin (2006), is one of the eight skiers with high hematocrit and gets a 5-day rest. Gold in the team sprint at Vancouver (2010) – difficult to say anything here. Then gets nailed for banned substance in supplements in Sochi (2014)?

    By this point, she’s not new to the game and a pile of prior ‘contaminated supplement’ cases have already been argued in multiple sports. Either the contaminated supplement is a cover or she really dropped the ball on choosing what to ingest.

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    November 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    TeamEpokeEdsbyn once again provides the most salient and cutting analysis of the day. Well played old man.

  • Avatar
    caldxski

    November 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    It may be now that beside PT’s, wax techs, technique coaches, equipment gurus, managers and PR people, skiers need chemists on their staffs.

  • Avatar
    highstream

    November 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Good comment, caldxski.

    Big Joe (and some others), the Court of Arbitration recognizes what you don’t: a contract is no more useful or valid than the ability of the parties to reasonably meet it. That’s why, for example, in the extreme lots of contracts have escape clauses, such as for natural disasters or terrorism, and why in civil court the claim that a prudent person or organization acting responsibility couldn’t have known whatever is at issue is considered a legitimate defense. So, why is it that you won’t allow elite athletes – and the Court of Abritration – the fairness standard that’s considered commonplace in many other affairs?

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    November 15, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Strict liability?

  • Avatar
    T.Eastman

    November 15, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    “Strict liability?”

    … maybe a difference between US law and Civil Law?

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    November 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

    highstream: ok. now i see your point. i think i do understand a little something about the law. i did not disagree with the CoA decision. I agree it is a question of either (1) did she know; or (2) was she careless in not knowing. obviously two different standards that warrant differing levels of penalty. if she did know it was tainted she should get a higher penalty and if she was careless. I assume their was evidence presented that she did not know — but was careless and thus the reduced penalty in comparison to one who knowingly injected EPO.

    Suppose, however, that an athlete unknowingly is provided anabolic steroids and suppose research demonstrates (as some has – albeit limited) there are long lasting effects – well beyond a six month suspension period? what then? even though it was not the athletes “fault” should the athlete be able to compete with this unfair advantage?

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