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Austrian coach at center of doping probe: I had done nothing

Austrian coach at center of doping probe: “I had done nothing”{mosimage}SESTRIERE, Italy- The disgraced Austrian ski coach who ignited a doping scandal at the Torino Games insisted he had no medical equipment and said he was so ”shattered” by the episode that he tried to kill himself by crashing into a police roadblock.

”I was completely shattered, I couldn’t think clearly. When something like that happens to you, you are in an extraordinary mental situation. I wanted to take my own life, because my world had been destroyed. I wanted to end my life with the car,” Mayer told an Austrian weekly news magazine.

Mayer’s presence among Austria’s biathletes and cross-country skiers at the Olympics set off police raids and intense scrutiny from the IOC. But Mayer – banned from the Olympics for links to blood doping in 2002 – insisted he was on a personal trip to watch his team compete in the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee medical officials met with Italian prosecutors Wednesday in Torino to discuss the Austrian scandal and another doping case at the Olympics: that of Russian biathlon star Olga Pyleva, stripped of her silver medal last week for using a banned stimulant.

Meanwhile, the Olympic drug-testing lab was still analyzing samples taken from 10 Austrian biathletes and cross-country skiers in last weekend’s raids on athletes’ housing. IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the results should be known by the end of the Games on Sunday.

The head of the Austrian ski federation confirmed that two athletes admitted they ”may have used illegal methods” at the Winter Games. They have since been dropped from the team for bolting early after the unprecedented sweep.

Police seized unlabeled drugs, a blood transfusion machine and dozens of syringes in the surprise raids late Saturday. Investigators said they later found more syringes in Mayer’s rented living quarters, two days after he left the area.

The Austrian Olympic Committee announced Wednesday it had formed a commission to investigate the doping scandal, warning it had to move quickly to avoid punishment for one of the leading Winter Games nations – including a possible ban.

NEWS, an Austrian news weekly, reported that Mayer panicked when he heard on the radio he was being sought by police after fleeing the Italian Alps. The magazine quoted Mayer as saying he became suicidal when he saw a police roadblock shortly after crossing the border into Austria.

”I had done nothing and was suddenly suspected and being searched for in another country,” he said. ”It was only a private trip. The only thing that was in the car was my brother’s tool for electrical repairs. Nothing else.”

Mayer’s lawyer, Herwig Hasslacher, also denied the coach had any link to doping.

”My client did not have anything illegal with him,” Hasslacher told Austrian TV network ORF. ”He didn’t have any banned substances with him, he didn’t have any syringes.”

The IOC said it will set up a special panel to investigate the Austrian Olympic committee, ski federation, athletes and coaches, likely after the Olympics end. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the body could sanction the Austrians even without any athletes testing positive for banned substances.

The scandal could hurt Austria’s bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Salzburg is considered one of the favorites among the seven cities bidding for those Games. The host city will be selected in July 2007 at an IOC meeting in Guatemala City.

Heinz Jungwirth, general secretary of the Austrian Olympic Committee, said his nation risks a ban if it does not get to the bottom of the scandal.

”The need to probe this case to the end is extremely high. There is enormous pressure from the IOC,” Jungwirth said. ”We have to show the IOC that things will be cleared up.”

AP writers Stephen Wilson, Naomi Koppel and Ariel David contributed to this report.

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