Back in December 2018, Germany’s Stefan Luitz won his first ever World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Luitz, whose career has been scattered with injuries and tough comebacks, upset the giant slalom 2019 crystal globe winner, Marcel Hirscher in the first giant slalom race of the season. But his win was stripped after a photo of the Luitz inhaling oxygen at the top of the course in between first and second runs was released.
Article 20.4 in the FIS’ Anti-Doping Rules prohibits the use of oxygen. Seeing as the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey track runs at the highest elevation on the World Cup circuit, supplemental oxygen could offer an advantage despite the seemingly small infraction.
Luitz’s legal team argued that WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency that oversees doping in international sport, does not deem oxygen as an illegal supplement/doping agent and therefore can overrule the FIS’ regulations, despite FIS having banned oxygen tanks at race venues. WADA’s rules that no longer ban supplemental oxygen went into effect on January 1st, 2018. The Germans originally argued they had thought the FIS would adopt WADA’s code.
As of Friday, March 15th, the Court for Arbitration of Sport granted Luitz’s appeal, reinstating his first World Cup win over Hirscher and regranting him the check that comes with said win. Most importantly, the ruling allows Luitz’s to own the success story that came with his first win. Prior to 2018, Luitz had been at the top of his game, raking in some the best finishes of his career prior to tearing his ACL just before Christmas 2017. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2013. To come back the second race of the season is remarkable, given the mental barriers and surround injury.
Unfortunately, Luitz is back on the recovery grind. A crash during the races in Adelboden left Luitz with a loose ball and socket joint after his shoulder dislocated in the fall. Luitz underwent surgery and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Hirscher is knocked by down to second place, but the loss of 20 FIS did not affect his season standings. Hirscher still won the giant slalom crystal globe by a landslide.