January 15, 2015

MUNICH (AP) Five-time Olympic speedskating champion Claudia Pechstein has won a major victory in her long legal battle with the International Skating Union over a doping ban.

A Munich court on Thursday allowed her to proceed with a lawsuit seeking damages from the ISU.

The Munich state court ruled against the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which had supported a two-year ban imposed on Pechstein in 2009 despite her denials of doping.

The Munich ruling potentially opens the door for other athletes to go to a civil court rather than accept CAS decisions.

''This is a great day for me. This victory is worth more than all my Olympic medals together,'' Pechstein said after the ruling.

With a total of nine Olympic medals, Pechstein is Germany's most decorated Winter Olympian. She still competes at age 42.

Pechstein was banned because of irregular blood results although she never failed a drug test. The skater has always denied doping accusations and insists her blood values are due to a genetic condition.

She is demanding ?4.4 million ($5.18 million) from the ISU in compensation for lost income during her suspension.

''The ISU cheaters took everything from me but now it's not over. I am pleased that the ISU now has to present proof,'' Pechstein said. ''The ISU has to prove that I doped. But there will never be a positive test from me and no proof of doping.''

ISU lawyer Christian Keidel said the federation will take the case to the Federal Appeals Court. He said the case so far had centered on jurisdiction and not on the doping charges against Pechstein.

Munich court judge Rainer Zwirlein said in the ruling that the impartiality of CAS was questionable because sports federations had the priority in naming judges to the body. By being the only court available to athletes, CAS broke cartel laws, Zwirlein said.

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