February 18, 2006

Police raid Austrian teams

By Antonella Ciancio

TURIN (Reuters) - Italian police staged raids on the
Austrian biathlon team's Winter Olympics quarters on Saturday,
an Austrian Olympic chief and investigative source told

The Austrian cross-country team were also subjected to a
raid, an Austrian team source said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) later confirmed
that unannounced out-of-competition doping tests had been
conducted on "a number of Austrian cross-country and biathlon

It added: "In this instance, the IOC has acted on
information it received in a report given to it by the World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which indicates the possible presence
of Mr Walther Mayer in the private accommodation of the
Austrian biathlon and cross country teams.

"Given that Mr Mayer has been declared ineligible to
participate in all Olympic Games up to and including Vancouver
2010, based on his involvement in blood manipulation offences
committed in Salt Lake City 2002, the IOC is fulfilling its
responsibility to conduct anti-doping controls on athletes who
might have been under his influence."

The investigate source said: "The searches are ongoing in
the Austrian biathlon staff's lodgings. They were made at the
request of the Turin prosecutors."

The source added that nothing had been found so far.

The secretary-general of the Austrian Olympic Committee
Heinz Jungwirth told Reuters there had been a police raid on
Austrian biathletes in Pragelato and that they would be
protesting to the International Olympic Committee.

"There was a suspicion of doping and the athletes had to
submit to doping tests," he said.

The Austrian Press Agency (APA) quoted biathlon chief coach
Alfred Eder as saying the private homes of cross-country and
biathlon athletes in San Sicaro and Pragelato had been raided
by Italian carabinieri acting on an order by the Turin


The team assistant and other personnel were ordered to stay
in their rooms and were not allowed to make any telephone
calls, APA said.

"I cannot speak, I am sorry," said the Austrian skiing
sports director Markus Gandler when contacted by the agency.

According to Eder, the operation started at 1900 local time
and was still ongoing at 2200. "This is a grotesque situation.
I do not know what was happening in the house. I am sitting
here in a room and I cannot leave," Eder told the APA.

There have been six biathlon races so far at the 2006
Winter Games and not one Austrian medallist in the sport.

There are four more biathlon races due before the end of
the February 10-26 Olympics. The next is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Italian government, which introduced strict doping laws
before it won the right to host the Turin Olympics, has refused
to relax them to correspond with IOC rules which foresee only
non-penal sanctions for drugs users.

Even a last-minute compromise between the IOC and the host
country on who would handle the doping tests during the Games
had failed to include a moratorium on launching criminal
procedures against athletes found using banned substances.

That left the IOC concerned that athletes could be
subjected to police raids and face prison sentences if they
tested positive.