European judges dismiss challenges by Mutu, Pechstein

GENEVA (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed a challenge by soccer player Adrian Mutu and speedskater Claudia Pechstein claiming they were denied a fair trial by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

However, CAS could be forced to open up the traditional secrecy of its hearings by the majority decision of a panel of seven European judges published Tuesday in Strasbourg, France.

In a second decision, the panel said Pechstein’s rights were violated because Switzerland-based CAS denied a public hearing in her 2009 appeal against a doping ban.

“(Q)uestions concerning the merits of the sanction imposed on (Pechstein) for doping, discussed before the CAS, required a hearing that was subject to public scrutiny,” the European court said, ordering Switzerland to pay Pechstein damages of 8,000 euros ($9,200).

Currently, CAS allows public hearings only in the rare event that all parties agree.

“We should examine whether the Court wants CAS to hold a public hearing at the request of one party only,” the sports court said in a statement, adding that the court’s governing board “already envisaged the possibility of having public hearings at its newer and much larger future premises at the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne.”

The decision was published eight years after the athletes filed separate applications to the European court.

Both Mutu and Pechstein pursued their cases through hearings with governing bodies of their sports, then CAS, and Switzerland’s federal supreme court before arriving at the European court in Strasbourg.

Mutu, a forward who played for Romania’s national team, was fired by Chelsea for breach of contract after he tested positive for cocaine in 2004. A CAS panel upheld a FIFA ruling that Mutu, who later signed for Juventus, must pay the English club more than 17 million euros ($19.6 million) in compensation.

Mutu later challenged the verdicts, saying the CAS panel of three judges was not impartial. In appeal cases, each side chooses one arbitrator from a list approved by the court. CAS appoints a panel president.

The European court said Mutu claimed “one of the arbitrators of that court Mr. D.-R.M. (Dirk-Reiner Martens), had been a partner in a law firm representing the interests of the owner of Chelsea Football Club.”

Pechstein was a five-time Olympic champion when the International Skating Union banned her for two years in a blood doping case and CAS dismissed her appeal . She denied wrongdoing, but was forced to miss the 2010 Vancouver Games.

She failed in an argument to the Swiss Federal Tribunal that CAS “was not an ‘independent and impartial’ tribunal on account of the method of appointing the arbitrators, the ‘hard line’ taken against doping by its president and its refusal to allow her hearing to be held in public.”

Pechstein has also challenged the authority of CAS and the way it selects potential arbitrators for its approved list at German federal and constitutional courts. A final ruling is pending.

The court was created in 1984 and is the mandatory path for athletes to challenge disciplinary and appeal judgments by Olympic sports federations.