Berlin: Former Olympic speed-skating champion Claudia Pechstein has made an appeal for private donations from fans to help clear her name in the on-going legal dispute with the International Skating Union (ISU).
The 43-year-old, who won the last of her five Olympic gold medals at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, was banned for two years in 2009 after being accused by the ISU of blood doping because of irregular results, which she claims are due to a genetic disorder having never failed a drugs test.
She returned to competition after her ban expired and won a total of five bronze medals at world championships from 2011, the last of which came in the 5000m in the Netherlands in February.
The German is suing the ISU in Germany`s High Court for damages and is seeking 4.4 million euros ($4.8m) in lost earnings.
To continue her legal battle, she needs at least 70,000 euros in legal fees and has appealed for public donations, which she promises to repay, claiming to be broke after using up all of her own money so far.
In an extraordinary move, Pechstein has posted bank details on her website after being flooded with offers of financial help from fans following an interview in Wednesday`s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which she said: "Everything has been taken away from me and I have to live with that".
"Two days ago, I was at the point where things looked really bleak for me and the six-year fight for justice against my unjust ban had eaten up all my funds," she wrote on her website.
"What has happened since then has really overwhelmed me and in a variety of ways I have received hundreds of messages of support.
"I promise to pay back everyone who has given me even one euro once I have won my case and reimbursed my lawyers.
"Anyone who wants to support me with a small donation can pay money into the account of my support group," she added before asking for donors to include their bank details so she can repay them.