Presumed guilty. Two athletes. Two asthmatics. Two idiotic sentences.
By KLAUS WIVEL
FOOTBALL Player Jesper Münsberg can still not enter his home team's grass field. The 33-year-old defender from Lolland-Falster Alliance, located in the second division East, received in November 2009 a quarantine on a half years after a legal process that has lasted almost two years. Not before the middle of this month can he play again.
Two weeks ago, Weekendavisen wrote an article in which several renowned researchers criticized WADA for having created a lawless system for the athletes and for doing everything to protect system. His sentence is an example of the legal carelessness which characterizes sport these years.
In February 2008 Münsberg played for the first Division club Næstved. Shortly before a friendly against Brondby, he took several deep puffs on his asthma spray. Münsberg has suffered from asthma throughout his life, what gives him a reduced lung activity at 19 percent, and he had already been ill up to the fight so his airway was clogged. The asthmatic had obtained a permission from Anti Doping Denmark to use the asthma inhaler 'as needed' though it contained the substance salbutamol which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA’s list of banned substances.
That evening, 10 February 2008, doping inspectors from Anti Doping Denmark were present during the training match. Subsequently the tests showed that the amount of salbutamol in Münsbergs urine was more than one and half time above the permitted limit. WADA’s medical experts had established a rule that if an athlete had more that 1000 ng / ml of salbutamol in the body they would receive a penalty. They claimed that it was impossible to exceed that level without cheating.
Münsberg had 2460 ng/ml.
The doping Committee under the Danish Sports Confederation dismissed the case. As the Danish Sports Confederation wrote, there is 'no proven performance-enhancing effect in connection with inhalation of salbutamol and Münsberg have only taken the product for health reasons in order to combat his asthma."
On 13 June 2008 WADA asked DIF to look at the matter again and again DIF dismissed the case. Then WADA appealed the case to sport's Supreme Court CAS.
In February 2009 the defence player who in his civilian life is a plummer was flown for three days to Oslo to undergo a series of experiments under the supervision of WADA’s Norwegian inspectors. The experiments demonstrated that Münsberg was able to once again obtain an almost equally high level of salbutamol in the blood only by taking several puffs of his asthma spray. He obtain over 1900 ng/ml.
These numbers Münsberg and his Danish team took to Lausanne to try to convince CAS. It was all in vain. The three judges sentenced the Dane to six months without any sports from 16 November 2009.
The chairman of the Danish Players Association Anders Øland commented the proceedings thus: "For elite athletes fighting WADA - with the reverse burden of proof and with WADA's many resources – it is a David's fight against Goliath. The demands of the accused to prove their innocence are completely unreasonable and are having great economic and personal consequences."
WHY was Münsberg convicted when he at a laboratory experiments could produce almost the same high levels of salbutamol in his blood? Did WADA place the allowable limit too low? Is Münsberg the victim of idiotic rules? And what does it tell us about another highly controversial case which CAS and WADA had a few years earlier?
During the Giro d'Italia in 2007, the Italian cyclist - and asthmatic - Alessandro Petacchi tested positive for salbutamol. CAS deprived him of his five victories during the Giro and all his prize money and gave him 12 months' quarantine. Petacchis had 1353 ng/ml in his blood. This was above the limit – but it was far below what Jesper Münsberg could produce.
Petacchi also had the right to use his spray. Althoug unlike with Münsberg there was a limit of six puffs a day.
But if the Dane could reach over 1900 ng/ml and ever well up over 2400 ng/ml, the Italien could in theory also have been able to reach 1353 ng/ml on six puffs a day. We do not know. Unlike Münsberg Petacchi was never retested. And neither of them received the benefit of the doubt.
They will never be compensated for the cost of their sanctions. In CAS it is impossible to appeal – even if time has shown that the rulings were based on bad science.