Claudia Pechstein (born 22 February 1972) is a German speed skater. She has won five Olympic gold medals. With a total of nine Olympic medals, five gold, two silver and two bronze, she was the most successful Olympic speed skater, male or female, of all-time, until the gold medal of Ireen Wüst in the 2018 Winter Olympics of PyeongChang, and also the most successful German Winter Olympian of all-time.
Pechstein is the first female Winter Olympian to win medals in five consecutive Olympics (1992–2006), She won the gold medal in the women's 5000 metres race in three consecutive Olympics (1994, 1998, 2002), with bronze in the first (1992) and the silver medal in the fifth (2006). In the 3000 metres, she won three medals, gold (2002), silver (1998) and bronze (1994). She won her fifth Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. After missing the 2010 Vancouver Games, she made her sixth Olympic appearance at the 2014 Sochi Games, finishing fourth in the 3000 metres and fifth in the 5000 metres. In 2018 she appeared in Pyeongchang Games.
Pechstein was born in East Berlin. She held a world record on the 5000 m track with the time 6:46.91 achieved on the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City on 23 February 2002, which was beaten by Martina Sáblíková on the same oval five years later. Pechstein is a sergeant in the German Federal Police and trains at the force's sports training centre at Bad Endorf.
As reported by Olympic news outlet Around the Rings, Pechstein is aiming for an Olympic return, this time as a cyclist. "I will start in the individual pursuit at the German Track Championships from 6 to 10 July in Berlin", she said. "I am also planning to race the individual sprint or the 500-meter time trial. I trust I can do this because as a skater I've trained a lot on the bike. I have nothing to lose. I don't know how this kind of competition works, so this alone is really exciting".
After the World Championships in Norway in February 2009, the International Skating Union accused Pechstein of blood doping and banned her from all competitions for two years. This ban was based on irregular levels of reticulocytes in her blood. These levels were highest during the Calgary World Cup 2007 and the Hamar World Championships in 2009; elevated levels were also found during a number of other competitions and training spot checks.
Pechstein denied that she had doped and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, claiming among other things that she has an inherited condition explaining the abnormal measurements. The court affirmed the ban in November 2009, finding no evidence for an inherited condition in the expert testimony provided by Pechstein. This was the first case of doping based on circumstantial evidence alone; no forbidden substances were ever found during her repeated tests.
In December 2009 she asked the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland for an injunction and was allowed to participate at a single 3000 m race in Salt Lake City, so that she could qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver should her appeal of the ban be successful. She finished 13th in the race on 11 December but would have needed a place among the top 8 to qualify for the Olympics.