Sports court’s hazy judgement: guiltless, yet guilty

Andrus Veerpalu

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits / Postimees / Scanpix

International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is one strange establishment passing incomprehensible, even absurd judgements.

Let’s start with the case of the Spanish bicyclist Alberto Contador.

Contador’s body revealed a microscopic amount of a banned substance, clenbuterol. The Spaniard’s defenders claimed, based on a study, that the substance entered the body by accident i.e. eating beef «poisoned» by doping.

CAS admitted that was a possibility.

Accusers – International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – thought that Mr Contador got the forbidden substance from food supplements.

CAS admitted that this was also a possibility. Thereafter proceeding to formulate their judgement by means of mathematics and probability theory.

Accusers pointed to an EU report: 23,966 tests have been performed on beef, with only one case of clenbuterol found, in Italy. Thereby probability of Mr Contador eating doping-meat was a mere 0.0042 per cent.

CAS based its proceedings on the aforementioned percentage and found: getting the forbidden substance from food supplements was much more probable. The court couldn’t care less if Mr Contador, at the time of being caught, even took food supplements or not. Cold conviction followed.

Would that be possible in an ordinary court? That the judges announce: we do not know it the accused was, at that moment, at the bank, masked and pistol in hand; but it is much more probable than being at a pillow club in town close by. So, therefore, we convict him in bank robbery.

The Andrus Veerpalu case. CAS, reading from the report, arrived at a conclusion: even if Mr Veerpalu’s test had indications at use of growth hormone, he cannot be convicted as the limit values of the test are scientifically unproven. Thus: Mr Veerpalu is not guilty… but then again, he is.

Why on earth such a hazy wording? CAS fed the wolves and kept the sheep, some say. Is a sports court there to protect animals, or to find out the truth? Couldn’t they have said plain and clear: as the test limit values are scientifically unproven, we clear Mr Veerpalu from accusations in doping.

And what’s even worse: Mr Veerpalu’s saga may not have ended, due to CAS beating around the bush. FIS may open the tests once more, apply new methods and sue again. CAS mentioned that was a possibility. Meaning: here we go again, for years and years.