Alpine Skier Accused of Cheating Has World Cup Victory Reinstated

March 19, 2019 by Tom Ramstack
A skier carves turns near the bottom of the mountain at Bridger Bowl ski area near Bozeman, Mont. The area features breathtaking scenery and downhill runs for all abilities, beginner to advanced back-country expert. (John Myers/Duluth News Tribune/TNS)

The international Court of Arbitration for Sport last week reinstated a victory for German alpine skier Stefan Luitz that he won in December during the World Cup skiing competition.

He was stripped of his medal by the International Ski Federation for inhaling from an oxygen tank between runs.

However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland said standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency take precedence in international sports competition. The standards give no indication there is anything wrong with inhaling oxygen between runs.

“Accordingly, Stefan Luitz is no longer disqualified from the giant slalom at the [International Ski Federation] Alpine World Cup Event in Beaver Creek (Colorado) on 2 December 2018, and the order that he forfeit any medals, points and prizes obtained at such event is revoked,” the court said in a press release.

Luitz won an upset victory in the giant slalom, beating out the expected winner, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher. The International Ski Federation began an investigation after Luitz was photographed inhaling oxygen through a mouthpiece between runs.

The federation disqualified him in January, saying its rules forbid oxygen inhalation during competition. The 26-year-old also lost his trophy and prize money.

The federation said the disqualification was a one-time punishment. He still would be allowed to participate in future skiing competitions.

Luitz appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His legal team argued that Luitz had assumed the International Ski Federation would adopt standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

In its ruling last Friday, the court said the code of the World Anti-Doping Agency should determine whether Luitz did anything wrong.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is a foundation organized by the International Olympic Committee to coordinate efforts against performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

The agency’s code mentions steroids and blood-doping as being prohibited but says nothing about supplemental oxygen. As a result, the International Ski Federation rule banning oxygen appears to be “in conflict with and thus overridden by the [World Anti-Doping Agency],” the Court of Arbitration for Sport press release said.

The federation responded by saying that it “fully accepts” the court’s decision.

After the ruling, Luitz posted a Facebook message saying he has been on “an emotional roller coaster ride” since losing his World Cup title. He also has suffered injuries. However, he said his efforts finally have been worthwhile.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is an arbitration board established by the International Olympic Committee in 1984 to resolve sports-related disputes.

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