Banned Pechstein gets permission to compete

Germany’s five-time Olympic champion speed skater Claudia Pechstein will be allowed to compete at the World Cup events in Salt Lake City despite her doping ban, following a surprise decision from a Swiss court on Tuesday.

Banned Pechstein gets permission to compete
Photo: DPA

The ruling means the 37-year-old Berliner now has a final chance to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver at the 3,000-metre race this weekend.

“It’s naturally super for me to know that the training of the last weeks was worth it and I now have the possibility to qualify for the Olympics,” she said while working out on the ice after the decision was announced.

Pechstein plans to appeal a November 25 Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision, which on upheld a two-year ban due to irregularities in her blood. The ban is scheduled to end on February 9, 2011 but her lawyer filed an appeal on Monday, referring to numerous alleged procedural errors in the case.

The court gave Pechstein 30 days to complete her appeal, but because the Christmas holidays fall during this period the case won’t be reviewed until after the new year.

Head of the DESG German speed skating association Gerd Heinze had already signalled that Pechstein would be nominated to skate at the competition in Salt Lake City in the case of a favourable court decision. But whether she will skate at the Olympics is up to the court, he said.

Last month’s ruling by the Lausanne-based CAS upheld a July 1 decision by the International Skating Union (ISU), which banned Pechstein from the sport after tests showed she had an abnormal count of reticulocytes, or early-stage red blood cells. It did not, however, reveal any illicit doping substances.

Pechstein maintains that she never took performance-enhancing substances and says she may have a genetic abnormality that caused the irregular blood count.

According to a court statement, Pechstein gave three blood samples during the World Speed Skating Championships in Hamar, Norway in February 2009. These samples showed a reticulocyte percentage of 3.49, 3.54 and 3.38 – well above the 2.4 percent limit. Meanwhile another sample taken 10 days later showed a significantly lower percentage of 1.37.

This “sharp drop” could not be “reasonably explained by any congenital or subsequently developed abnormality,” the ruling said.

“The panel finds that they must, therefore, derive from the athlete’s illicit manipulation of her own blood, which remains the only reasonable alternative source of such abnormal values,” it concluded.

The ban threatens to end the winter Olympian’s career, which has garnered five gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

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Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs’ door policies in court

Bouncers at German nightclubs are legendary for their reluctance to let too many people through the door. A Munich man is now taking one club to court for turning him away based on his age.

Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs' door policies in court
Inside a night club in Berlin. Photo: DPA

In a case that could have an impact on clubs up and down the country, 47-year-old Nils Kratzer is challenging a nightclub’s door policy in the Federal Court in Karlsruhe on Thursday, arguing that a bouncer’s decision to turn him away at the door was discriminatory.

The incident occurred when Kratzer tried to get into an open air club night on the Praterinsel, a small island on the river Isar in Munich in 2017.

“I’ve never had anyone tell me to my face that I’m too old for a festival,” Kratzer said before the hearing. “On the contrary, I’ve often gone to festivals nationwide with my friends in the past and all ages have been represented.”

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The club makes no bones about the fact that it told its bouncers to discriminate at the door, but argues that this was based on “optics” and not on age. It argues that, given that there was only space for 1,500 guests, it needed to discriminate on some grounds.

If Kratzer were to win the case, which he is basing on anti-discrimination laws introduced in 2006, it would force all German night clubs to review their door policies, as a ruling by a federal court sets a legal precedent.

But Kratzer has already failed to convince a Munich city court and a Bavarian state court of his case. At the Munich city court, he called his younger girlfriend to testify in order to establish his youthfulness.

Nils Kratzer. Photo: DPA

He also complained that Munich clubs have a culture of discrimination at their doors, saying one had turned him away for being a man, while he had also witnessed people being turned away based on their skin colour.

“Not all unequal treatment is discrimination,” argues Sandra Warden from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. “Event organisers are free to decide whom they let in. The host’s right to decide is protected in our country.”

Warden said that clubs often discriminate based on age, such as at Ü-30 parties, ones where only people over the age of 30 are allowed to enter.

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