Soccer professional Mario Vuskovic tearfully protested his innocence in the closing argument of the far-reaching doping procedure. The 21-year-old Croatian defender at Hamburger SV can hope for an acquittal, but he still has to fear a four-year ban. On the third day of the hearing in Frankfurt/Main, the sports court of the German Football Association announced the verdict for the next two weeks. Because of the special nature of the process, as the presiding judge Stephan Oberholz explained at the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt/Main: "We need time."
An interpreter translated Vuskovic's words shortly before the end of the four-hour hearing in the "Golden Goal" room: "I have never cheated in sport and I never will (...). Every day I wish for this nightmare to end. Above all, I fear that tomorrow it can hit another athlete.”
The legal dispute over the second division player sparked a fundamental debate about the detection of blood doping - and this is far from over. Vuskovic is suspected of doping with exogenous erythropoietin (Epo). He has been suspended since November 2022 – he was also not allowed to train with his team.
If convicted, Vuskovic can go before the DFB Federal Court. In the event of an acquittal, the National Anti-Doping Agency Nada and the World Anti-Doping Agency Wada could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
Oberholz let it be known at the beginning of the negotiation that from his point of view the cause was scientifically "written out". "It threatens to become a never-ending story," he said in view of the many reports and emphasized: "We think we can definitely make a decision - today."
According to Oberholz, during a break of more than one and a half hours, an attempt was made to settle the whole thing "consensually", i.e. by mutual agreement. But this failed. DFB chief prosecutor Anton Nachreiner said in his plea: "I consider this doping allegation to be proven without any problems." ruin a successful career". The footballer's lawyers had applied for acquittal "because Mario Vuskovic did not dope".
In view of the dispute between the experts, Oberholz had last appointed Jean-Francois Naud as an expert. The Canadian was not included in the hearing as expected, but Oberholz reported on his findings: According to this, the evaluation of the Vuskovic sample in the doping laboratory in Kreischa was correct. However, Naud sits at Wada with Kreischa's laboratory manager Sven Voss in the working group for Epo. The sports court had previously rejected an application for bias by the Vuskovic lawyers.
Four experts hired by Hamburger SV had unanimously doubted the positive result of the WADA-accredited analysis laboratory in Kreischa as "false positive". Laboratory head Voss, on the other hand, assured that Vuskovic's sample looked exactly like "a positive sample should look like". Lorenz Hofbauer, a defense advisor and professor at the Dresden University Hospital, once again mentioned various points of criticism of the EPO analysis process on Friday. The poor selectivity in the tests between endogenous and exogenous EPO is "fundamental".
The fact that the Epo analysis, which has been used for more than 20 years, has not long since been replaced by a mass spectrometric method, is repeatedly criticized. Because: Almost all other doping substances are detected with this method. An Epo result is interpreted visually using an image.