February 21, 2006

Germans surge ahead, Austrian gloom deepens

By Ossian Shine

TURIN (Reuters) - Germany's dominant Olympians pushed the
nation further into the lead in the Winter Games medals table
on Tuesday, while neighboring Austria slipped deeper into a
doping controversy.

German athletes picked up their fourth biathlon medal of
the February 10-26 Games, winning gold in the men's 4 x 7.5-km

It was Germany's eighth gold of the Olympics among a
Games-highest 19 medals in total.

The U.S. and Austria are joint second both with seven
golds, five silvers and three bronzes.

The Austrians success on the slopes and the ice could not
detract from the gloom surrounding their team over a doping

The team faces a disciplinary investigation to probe
possible doping violations -- whether or not a positive dope
test is found.

A Monday night police search of a former coach's lodgings
unearthed medical equipment useful in the investigation into
possible doping violations, a police source told Reuters on

"Medical equipment was found in the house Walter Mayer was
staying in and this material is considered useful in the
investigation," the source said. It will now be analyzed


The International Olympic Committee will probe possible
doping violations by the Austrian biathlon and cross-country
skiing teams.

The IOC were angered by Austria's decision to ignore an
Olympics ban imposed on Mayer and allow him come to Turin and
meet athletes.

Mayer is banned from the Olympics up to and including 2010
for his part in a blood-transfusion scandal at the Salt Lake
City Games in 2002, but he was spotted near the athletes and
the IOC informed police.

A night-time police and IOC doping raid on the two teams'
quarters in San Sicario and Pragelato on Saturday found
syringes, drugs and blood transfusion equipment. Ten of the
athletes were also tested for drugs.

The Austrians claim the equipment and drugs were used for
legitimate hemoglobin testing.

Biathletes Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann fled the
Games and could be suspended from the next Olympics because
they left after the raids without telling anyone.

The Austrians are also investigating why coach Emil Hoch
returned to Austria without "signing out" correctly.


According to its anti-doping rules the IOC could sanction
the Austrians even if none of their athletes test positive, if
there is an attempted use or possession of prohibited
substances or methods.

"Yes, the IOC could still take sanctions," IOC spokeswoman
Giselle Davies told reporters on Tuesday. "A disciplinary
commission will be set up in due course, it will deal with the
wider issues.

"There are issues outside the anti-doping procedures."

Mayer was until Saturday an official coach for the Austrian
team and appeared on a team postcard issued for the Olympics.
He had not been accredited for the Games, however.

On Monday he was admitted to an Austrian psychiatric
hospital after his arrest on Sunday for fleeing Austrian

In competition, Chad Hedrick will be looking to take
revenge on U.S. team mate Shani Davis when the two meet in the
men's 1,500 meters speedskating race.

Davis won the 1,000 leaving the Texan in sixth place.
Hedrick, who hoped to win five gold medals, has so far only won
one gold and desperately wants to clinch his second in a
distance in which he holds the world record.