Dhe sports court of the German Football Association (DFB) has banned Mario Vuskovic from the second division football club Hamburger SV for two years because of EPO doping. The DFB announced this on Thursday at the end of the process. “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. We will now deal with the reasons for the verdict in peace,” said Jonas Boldt, the sports director of HSV.
An appeal against the judgment of the DFB sports court can be lodged with the DFB federal court within a week. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also have this option. When asked by the FAZ, NADA said that it was currently examining whether to appeal the verdict.
“I have never cheated in sports”
On March 17, the third day of negotiations before the DFB sports court ended without a verdict. Stephan Oberholz, the presiding judge, said that the case was too complex and the consequences too far-reaching and that he therefore needed time. A deal between Vuskovic’s defense and the DFB control committee chaired by Anton Nachreiner had previously failed. According to FAZ information, the parties had already agreed on a nine-month sentence before NADA pointed out that, according to the WADA code, this would only be possible if Vuskovic pleaded guilty.
But the 21-year-old Croatian protested his innocence from the start. At the end of the third day of the hearing, he said: “I have never cheated in sport and never will. I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy what I and my family have had to go through over the past few months. Every day I wish for this nightmare to end.”
His ban now runs retrospectively from November 15, 2022. Since then, the Croatian has been provisionally suspended after the blood doping agent erythropoietin (Epo) was detected in the A and B samples of his urine during a training check on September 16. Vuskovic’s defense doubted the results of these samples and brought several expert opinions into the process, which essentially questioned the SAR-PAGE method used in the analysis laboratory in Kreischa as proof of an EPO offence. After the second day of the hearing, Judge Oberholz ordered another sample to be prepared by Canadian epic expert Jean-Francois Naud. However, Naud refused this analysis because he could not find any errors in the previous procedure.
Just a small amount of epo
In his verdict, Oberholz said: “The defense was unable to provide evidence of a false doping finding. The objections raised against the analysis procedure and above all against its positive result are ultimately not significant in order to be able to justify serious doubts about the positive Epo findings to questions that arise around Epo, like the NADA and WADA experts.
According to the WADA code, Epo offenses carry a four-year ban. Oberholz justified the fact that Vuskovic was only taken out of the game for two years: “On the one hand, Mario Vuskovic is to be treated as a first offender, on the other hand, the analysis results show only a small amount of Epo, so that structured doping cannot be assumed. And further: “The effects of a long suspension would also affect a 21-year-old professional soccer player and team athlete who is still in the development process more intensely than an individual athlete, also from an economic point of view.”
The public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg is investigating Vuskovic on the basis of the anti-doping law. Experts are currently evaluating his mobile phone, among other things. Joachim Rain, one of his defense attorneys, had already declared before the DFB sports court: “If we don’t get a C sample here, we will do it through the public prosecutor’s office. We assume that it is not owned by WADA.”