Pechstein set for return to action

Tue, 08 Feb 10:24:00 2011

Five-times Olympic speed skating champion Claudia Pechstein will return to action this weekend after a two-year doping ban and has set her sights set on the 2014 Olympic Games.

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Pechstein, who was banned in 2009 after a series of blood tests revealed abnormal values, said she would begin her comeback at a meeting in Erfurt, Germany, on February 12 and hoped to qualify for the World Cup in Salt Lake City later this month.

The speed skater, her country's most successful Winter Olympian with five golds, two silvers and two bronze medals, also wanted to gain eligibility for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Under an International Olympic Committee rule, known as the "Osaka rule", an athlete who has been banned for six months or longer over doping rule violations is automatically ruled out of the next Games.

"My comeback will not end after this season," Pechstein said in the German capital, after announcing her return on her website moments after her ban had ended at midnight.

"My ban has taken away my participation for the 2014 Olympics. Now I am fighting for that and to win my 10th medal at the next Games. My case is far from being closed."

The IOC confirmed on Tuesday the Osaka rule applied.

"The rule applies for Ms Pechstein for the 2014 Games," an IOC official told Reuters.

Earlier she had said she wanted to win World Cup starts for two distances.

"I will try over 3,000m and 1,500m to meet the International Skating Union (ISU)-set times that will allow me to start at the World Cup," Pechstein, who has staunchly denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs, said on her website.

"Tonight at midnight my two year-long nightmare ended. I will never forgive my tormentors but tonight I draw a line under it."

Pechstein was banned by the ISU in July 2009 backdated to February that year. She has never failed a drugs test but her blood had showed abnormal values. The skater said the values were a result of testing mistakes and sample mix-ups.

On the eve of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, she failed in her last-ditch attempt to take part in her sixth successive Games when her appeal was thrown out because of jurisdiction issues.


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