After testing positive for EPO in 2019, French athlete Ophélie Claude-Boxberger was banned from competing for two years by the AFLD (French Anti-Doping Agency) sanctions committee. The President of the AFLD contested the length of the ban and the absence of financial penalties. She appealed to the Conseil d’État (French Council of State), which today ruled that neither the two-year period determined by the sanctions committee nor the eight-year period requested by the agency’s presidency were justified under the French Sports Code. It therefore imposed a penalty of four years on the athlete.
During a drug test in 2019, athlete Ophélie Claude-Boxberger tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO), a doping substance used in high-level sports. The AFLD Board initiated proceedings against the athlete and on 19 March 2021 the agency’s sanctions committee banned her from all competitions for a period of two years. The President of the AFLD Board then appealed to the Conseil d'État to contest this two-year suspension and the lack of any financial penalty.
At the AFLD, the sanctions committee is responsible for adjudicating on alleged anti-doping rule violations. This body rules independently under the sole authority of its Chair . Although the agency’s board initially makes the decision to take legal action against a sportsperson, it does not attend and takes no part in the committee’s deliberations.
As a result of the positive EPO test, Ophélie Claude-Boxberger faced a ban from participating in sporting events and holding certain positions in the world of sport for four years.
This period may be lowered to two years in certain extenuating circumstances, or increased to eight years with a financial penalty, if a further violation of the Sports Code is found to have been committed (e.g. falsification or attempt to falsify a test).
After hearing the sportsperson, the sanctions committee ruled that Ophélie Claude-Boxberger should be banned from competing for two years. Taking an opposing view, that the athlete was guilty of falsification, the agency's President appealed to the Conseil d'État, contesting the committee’s decision and asking for sanctions to be extended to eight years. Ophélie Claude-Boxberger, on the other hand, asked for the sanctions to be overturned, asserting that there was no proof of the accusations against her.
The Conseil d'État took the view that neither the reduced period of two years upheld by the sanctions committee, nor the period of eight years requested by the agency’s president were justified in light of the evidence provided by the parties. Therefore, the Conseil d’État today extended Ophélie Claude-Boxberger’s penalty to a four year ban, amending the decision by the AFLD sanctions committee.
In a case involving the cyclist Marion Sicot, which came before the court last March, the Conseil d’Etat upheld a four-year ban.