Claudia Pechstein (born 22 February 1972) is a German speed skater. She has won five Olympic gold medals.
With a total of nine Olympic medals, five gold, two silver and two bronze, she is the most successful Olympic speed skater, male or female, of all-time, and also the most successful German Winter Olympian of all-time. Pechstein is the first female Winter Olympian to win medals in five consecutive Olympics (1992–2006), She won the gold medal in the women's 5000 metres race in three consecutive Olympics (1994, 1998, 2002), with bronze in the first (1992) and the silver medal in the fifth (2006). In the 3000 metres, she won three medals, gold (2002), silver (1998) and bronze (1994). She won her fifth Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
As reported by Olympic news outlet Around the Rings, Pechstein is aiming for an Olympic return, this time as a cyclist. "I will start in the individual pursuit at the German Track Championships from 6 to 10 July in Berlin", she said. "I am also planning to race the individual sprint or the 500-meter time trial. I trust I can do this because as a skater I've trained a lot on the bike. I have nothing to lose. I don't know how this kind of competition works, so this alone is really exciting".
Two-year ban because of accusation of blood doping
Pechstein denied that she had doped and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, claiming among other things that she has an inherited condition explaining the abnormal measurements. The court affirmed the ban in November 2009, finding no evidence for an inherited condition in the expert testimony provided by Pechstein. This was the first case of doping based on circumstantial evidence alone; no forbidden substances were ever found during her repeated tests.
In December 2009 she asked the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland for an injunction and was allowed to participate at a single 3000 m race in Salt Lake City, so that she could qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver should her appeal of the ban be successful. She finished 13th in the race on 11 December but would have needed a place among the top 8 to qualify for the Olympics.
In January 2010 the Swiss Federal Supreme Court refused to temporarily suspend Pechstein's ban for the Olympics. On 19 February 2010 the CAS ad hoc panel at the Vancouver Olympics rejected Pechstein's last minute appeal to be admitted to the ice skating team events.
In February 2010, Pechstein filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against the International Skating Union, alleging trial fraud.
On 15 March 2010, Gerhard Ehninger, head of the German Society for Hematology and Oncology, said that an evaluation of the case points to a light form of a blood anemia called spherocytosis – apparently inherited from her father. Pechstein attempted to use this new evidence in her appeal before the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The International Skating Union issued a press release explaining their opposition to this appeal.
Pechstein stood to lose her position with the German Federal Police should blood doping have been proved "beyond reasonable doubt". Disciplinary proceedings against her were halted in August 2010 because no such proof was available. Pechstein applied for unpaid leave in order to be able to continue her training, which was denied. As a result, she suffered a nervous breakdown in September 2010.
Pechstein in 2015
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court issued its final ruling on 28 September 2010, rejecting Pechstein's appeal and confirming the ban. Pechstein returned to competition in February 2011. She next won the bronze medal in the 2011 World Championships in the 5000 m race, finishing behind world champion Martina Sáblíková from the Czech Republic, and her teammate Stephanie Beckert.