HSV professional Mario Vuskovic will remain banned until November 2024 due to EPO doping. The DFB supports the attitude of the World Anti-Doping Agency – despite expert doubts. But the case is not over yet.
In the spectacular doping case Mario Vuskovic, the sports court of the German Football Association (DFB) made a judgment – and strengthened the position of the World Anti-Doping Agency and its EPO analysis. But the case is far from over.
Shortly after the DFB announced the two-year ban for the 21-year-old Croatian due to epo-doping, Vuskovic’s club Hamburger SV – as expected – announced an appeal to the DFB Federal Court. Should the verdict be confirmed there, the HSV central defender would only have to go to the International Sports Court (Cas).
“We took note of the decision of the DFB sports court and, after an exchange with Mario’s lawyers, immediately agreed that the judgment should be appealed,” said HSV sports director Jonas Boldt in a statement from the second division club. “We will now deal with the reasons for the judgment in peace.” The Vuskovic side has one week to appeal. When asked, the National Anti-Doping Agency (Nada) said it would decide next week whether to appeal.
Sentence below the maximum suspension
Taking into account the previous ban, the club will have to do without the talent for the time being until September 14, 2024. After all, the sentence remained below the maximum suspension of four years. The urine sample was taken from Vuskovic on September 16, 2022. He has always denied the doping allegations.
To the best of Nada’s knowledge, there has not yet been a case in football in Germany in which Epo has been detected in a player’s sample. But that’s not the only reason why the case is spectacular. The legal dimension also makes it exceptional. It was no longer just a question of whether Vuskovic had doped or was innocent.
During the three days of negotiations in front of the sports court chaired by Stephan Oberholz, the process had developed into a fundamental dispute about the Epo analysis: on the one hand there was Wada, on the other experts listed by Vuskovic’s defense lawyers, who had been the method practiced by Wada in doubt.
Sports court agrees with Wada stance
With Wada’s SAR-PAGE procedure, a visual check is carried out to determine whether the result is negative or positive. Almost all other doping substances are detected using a mass spectrometric method. If the DFB sports court had acquitted Vuskovic, this would have had unforeseeable consequences for Wada. Numerous judgments due to EPO doping could have been reviewed.
But in the end, the sports court clearly agreed with Wada’s position. “As a result of the proceedings, the DFB sports court is convinced with sufficient certainty that the analyzes of the A and B samples of the player’s urine in the laboratory in Kreischa have shown the presence of exogenous erythropetin, EPO for short,” said the chairman Oberholz quoted in the DFB announcement.
“This is a prohibited so-called ‘non-specific substance’, which is a punishable violation of the anti-doping regulations of the DFB,” said the sports judge. The sports court and all those involved in this process are bound by the anti-doping regulations that apply worldwide, in particular those of Wada.
The defense was “unable to provide evidence of a false doping finding,” the DFB statement said. According to the sports court, “the defense consultants in the doping detection procedure used here did not have the same high level of assessment competence as the laboratory manager in Kreischa, the EPO expert from Oslo and the court-appointed expert in Canada”.
This refers to Yvette Dehnes from Norway and the expert commissioned by the court, Jean-Francois Naud from Quebec. They had checked and confirmed the result from Kreischa. “Therefore, from our point of view, a further analysis, as requested by the defense as an alternative, is no longer necessary,” said Oberholz.
Suspension also hits HSV economically
Naud is part of an eight-person Wada epo working group. Kreischa’s head of the laboratory, Sven Voss, is also in the office, and Yvette Dehnes is the chair of the committee. Through this amalgamation, the Vuskovic defense had questioned impartiality. At the last oral hearing on March 17 in Frankfurt/Main, lawyer Joachim Rain saw no reason for a conviction: “We are applying for acquittal because Mario Vuskovic did not dope.”
The sports court justified the fact that Vuskovic was not given the maximum sentence of four years with the fact that the player was a first-time offender and the analysis results only showed a small amount of Epo, “so that structured doping cannot be assumed”. The effects of a long suspension would also hit a 21-year-old team player more intensely than an individual athlete, including in economic terms.
Sportingly, but just as economically, the ban also affects HSV. Vuskovic was loaned out by Hajduk Split for 1.2 million euros in 2021 and was signed on for three million euros last summer. Until his suspension, he played in Hamburg’s defense this season. It is considered an investment in the future at Hamburger SV. (dpa)