Wrestler Nabi to launch appeal with Swiss court over doping ban decision
Olympic silver medalist and two-time world Greco-Roman wrestling champion Heiki Nabi is aiming to take an appeal against the International Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) decision to uphold a two-year ban for doping offenses, to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The CAS ruled in October, that while Nabi could not be considered to have willingly used performance enhancing substances, it would not overturn his ban.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Nabi outlined his intentions to appeal the decision made by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.
"From the CAS's statement, I understood, that if you are an honest athlete, but are found to have even a tiny mount of a banned substance in your body, then it is your problem and yours alone. Even if you have no idea how that amount got into your body and have done everything possible to (try to) explain it," said Nabi at a press conference on Thursday.
"I don't think it's fair or just," Nabi said.
Nabi, who won a silver medal for Estonia at the London Olympics in 2012, was initially banned from competing by the disciplinary board of the Estonian Center for Integrity in Sports (ESTCIS) in June 2021, after a sample provided during an out-of-competition doping test was found to contain the banned substance Letrozole in February of the same year. As a result, Nabi missed out on competing for Estonia at last summer's Tokyo Olympics.
In October, the CAS upheld the ban, while also stressing that Nabi was an "unfortunate victim" who is "paying a heavy price for incidental circumstances that may, or may not, have been outside of his control, and should not be branded as a cheater or a doper."
"Yes, my good name has been restored, but my family and close friends have encouraged me to take on another fight," Nabi said at the press conference. "It's a fight I am determined to take on for myself and also for athletes who may find themselves in a similarly unfair situation in the future."
"I am determined to appeal the CAS's decision at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland," he explained. "The aim is to set a precedent that would allow for decisions to be overturned in cases where athletes who have broken the rules, if the source of unintentional doping cannot be identified."
"I can at least be happy that the CAS agreed that I have not been a bad athlete or a (willing) user of banned substances. That gives me some satisfaction. What happens next, whether there actually will there be a (court) procedure and so on, is difficult to say. I hope it goes well and sets a (new) precedent," said Nabi.
"Maybe by going ahead with (the appeal), the next athlete who finds themselves in this situation will be handled better. It's difficult and painful to go through. Honest athletes shouldn't have to suffer this badly," he added.
As for the resumption of his career in Greco-Roman wrestling, Nabi promised to give a more precise answer in the spring, once his ban is over. "I can honestly say, that I still have the desire to return to top level sport and fight for the Olympic medal that this incident has robbed me of," he said.
"At the moment, there is nothing more I can do in terms of sporting activity than to train myself and wait for the ban to end. As the rules in place at the moment mean the ban will remain in force, it seems right for me not to dwell on the subject of resuming my career. I plan to announce my decision next spring when the ban is over," Nabi explained at the press conference.
According Nabi's lawyer Paul Keres, the CAS's decision to uphold Nabi's ban is contrary to Swiss public policy. "Swiss lawyers found that the decision, in which the CAS states that the athlete has done nothing wrong, is guilty of nothing and is a victim, yet also upholds his two-year sentence, is contrary to Swiss public policy," said Keres.
"The second reason (for the appeal) is that, when compared with other athletes, Heiki has been discriminated against because he has to foot the bill for the CAS proceedings. This is, from our standpoint, unfair and unjustified," Keres added.
Keres went on to explain that Nabi also faced additional costs in bringing his case to court, due to his ban having been implemented by a national, rather than international, sporting body.
"The arbitration fee is 40,000 Swiss francs (Approx. €40,500 – ed.). It is an absurdity that athletes (competing) at international level can only challenge doping decisions at the CAS. Those who are sanctioned by international organizations can challenge (rulings) for free but those sanctioned by national anti-doping bodies have to pay."
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Editor: Michael Cole