Sports biologist: Nabi appeal unlikely to be upheld by Swiss court

Kristjan Port.
Kristjan Port. Source: ERR

Kristjan Port, professor of sports biology at Tallinn University, believes it is unlikely that wrestler Heiki Nabi will succeed with an appeal at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland against the International Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) decision to uphold a two-year ban for doping offenses.

Last Tuesday, the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the two-year ban imposed on Nabi, while also ruling that the Estonian wrestler was an unfortunate victim and could not be labeled a cheat or user of banned substances. At a press conference on Thursday, Nabi announced, that he planned to appeal the decision at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

"It was an interesting nuance that was added to the verdict and it allows for different interpretations," Port told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade," when discussing the CAS's decision to highlight that Nabi was an unfortunate victim in the case.

Following his ban by the disciplinary board of the Estonian Center for Integrity in Sports (ESTCIS), Nabi and his lawyers presented several possible scenarios to the CAS to explain how the banned substance Letrozole may have entered the wrestler's body. One explanation was that Nabi may have ingested the substance by unknowingly eating contaminated turkey meat or liver. Another posited, that Letrozole could have entered his body from the sweat or saliva of a sparring partner who had themselves taken the substance. The wrestler's coming into contact with gym equipment or surfaces containing traces of Letrozole was also put forward as a possible explanation.

"Basically, all the arguments they put forward were based on the premise that (the scenarios) are possible, but a lot of things in the world are possible," said Port.

"Now as to whether the evidence supports (those) possibilities, the court found that it was insufficient. The court doesn't so much look for the truth as it compares the evidence presented and decides which is more plausible," said Port.

"In this instance, it says that if you are an athlete, you bear sole responsibility, which implies, among other things, that you may be placed in an unfair situation, however, you always have the right to demonstrate that you were not at fault," Port explained.

"It's one thing to have the intention – to mean to do harm - but it's quite another to have not been careful enough about your food or something else," he said.

"To be honest, we don't know really how this substance entered Heiki Nabi's body. In its reasoning (for the verdict), the court added a sentence to say, that it did not know whether (the substance being in Nabi's body) was under his control or not," said Port.

Port considers it highly unlikely that the decision will be overturned on appeal. "The Swiss Supreme Court does not address the nature or logic of the CAS's legal process, nor does it deal with what Heiki Nabi is arguing about wanting to remove the requirement for an athlete to prove they were not at fault," Port explained.

"It simply addresses whether any errors were made during the trial. If there were any mistakes in the process, then, that process will be reversed. When you step into the private sporting arena, you make a contract, which says you will compete under those specific rules. Up to now, that has been accepted as standard around the world," Port said.

Port concluded by saying, that he hopes Nabi will continue to compete in the future, once his ban has been served. "I do hope that Heiki Nabi will pick himself back up. I think he is a very good and determined athlete. He's been very successful so far, which is a testament to what he's all about. Regardless of whether their back story is bad or not, I respect people who can get themselves out of tough situations," he said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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