FILE UNDER -- Nordic

Austrian nordic coach in doping scandal slams car into police barrier

Austrian nordic coach in doping scandal slams car into police barrier{mosimage}VIENNA, Austria – Walter Mayer, the banned Austrian ski coach at the center of an International Olympic Committee doping investigation into the country’s biathlon and cross-country teams, crashed his car into a police barrier Sunday evening after leading authorities on a bizarre chase.

Mayer was not injured in the accident, in which he struck a police car at a roadblock set up in the town of Paternion in the southwestern province of Carinthia, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the border with Italy, police said.

The Austrian Ski Federation said Sunday night it had ended its relationship with Mayer effective immediately. Federation president Peter Schroecksnadel cited the accident as the reason in a brief statement. He did not elaborate.

The unusual chain of events began when Mayer — returning to his native Austria just hours after Italian authorities searched Austria’s biathlon and cross-country team quarters for banned substances — pulled over to the side of the road and took a nap in his car, a police statement said.

A suspicious local resident alerted police, saying that a man was sleeping in a car with the engine turned off. When officers arrived on the scene to wake him, Mayer sped away, striking and slightly injuring an officer, the statement said.

Officers on the scene then called for backup, and authorities parked an empty police vehicle across the highway as a roadblock. They said Mayer slammed into the squad car, destroying both vehicles, but was uninjured.

Police said Mayer was taken into protective custody. It was unclear whether he would face criminal charges, and authorities declined to say whether they searched his vehicle for doping substances or equipment.

Mayer, the nation’s former nordic team coach who was banned from the Olympics under suspicion of performing blood transfusions at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, triggered the latest investigation after he showed up in Torino, arousing suspicion among officials of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA learned that Mayer was with the team at least briefly in Italy and notified the IOC. On Saturday, Italian authorities searched the team’s quarters for banned substances.

Mayer was not found during the overnight raids. He was no longer in Italy as of Sunday, said Mario Pescante, IOC member and government supervisor for the Games.

”It’s true that Walter Mayer slept in our accommodations here the night after he arrived, but only then,” said Alfred Eder, a trainer for the Austrian biathlon team.

Mayer and Volker Mueller, the German chiropractor who prescribed blood treatments in 2002, were banned by the IOC from the Torino Olympics and the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Austrian cross-country spokesman Eric Wagner said Mayer had been at the Games in a private capacity and had contacted the team as recently as Saturday.

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