February 10, 2006

Cross-country skiing-Eight suspended

TURIN (Reuters) - Eight cross-country skiers including an
Olympic gold medallist have been suspended for five days after
tests showed they had an abnormally high red blood cell count
on the day the Turin Winter Olympics open.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) said on Friday that
among the athletes was German Evi Sachinbacher Stehle, 25, who
was a gold medallist in the women's relay in Salt Lake City and
also won a silver in the women's sprint at the same Games.

Sean Crooks (Canada), Sergey Dalidovich (Belarus), Jean
Marc Gaillard (France), Alexsandr Latzukin (Belarus), Natalia
Matveeva (Russia), Kikkan Randall (U.S.) and Leif Zimmermann
(U.S.) were also shown to have abnormally high hemoglobin
values, FIS said.

"This is not a sanction but a health measure," FIS
secretary general Sarah Lewis told Reuters.

"When hemoglobin is too high, there is a risk the blood
will be too thick and there could be a clot and obviously that
could be a danger."

She added: "hemoglobin levels can be affected by altitude
training or the use of agents to boost hemoglobin."

The athletes will miss the women's and men's cross-country
skiing pursuit races. The women's 15-km and the men's 30-km
pursuit are both on Sunday.