Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Austrian doping scandal raises questions

As I sit in the press center many of the reporters, especially the Austrians, are waiting for the urine tests of six cross-country and four biathletes to come back. A live interview with Austria's director of skiing just ended and the crowd of reporters has dispersed to their work stations around the room.
On February 18th a midnight raid by Italian police occurred in Pragelato at the chalet where Austrian coaches are staying. Official reports say nothing was found. Unofficial reports say a bag of syringes and other equipment used to blood dope were found. The Austrian federation has hired a lawyer, and the banned coach who came to visit the Austrian team has left Italy.
The raids were prompted by the arrival of Walter Mayer, the Austrian coach banned from these Olympics for his involvement in a blood doping scandal at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City. Though the Austrians say the raid was unwarranted the IOC's chief medical commissioner Arne Ljungqvist Mayer's presence was enough reason to conduct the search.
Austrians are second in the medal count so far this Olympics. They've won three alpine gold, three alpine silver and three alpine bronze medals. Their nordic combined teams won two golds and one silver and the same for ski jumping.
Lots hangs on the results. A positive test will taint the games and Austrian's dominance of the ski world. A negative one would be a relief to all.


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