Hans Knauss tests positive for banned substanceHans Knauss of Austria has tested positive for a banned substance, and is awaiting results of further testing. The alpine ski racer made the announcement in a hastily-arranged press conference tonight in Santa Christina, Italy, the town that is hosting the famous Val Gardena downhill tomorrow.
“I have never knowingly taken any banned substances and I never will,” said Knauss, a 33-year-old downhiller. Speaking in German, he used a metaphor to describe what it was like to find out about the test. “I fell from the clouds,” he said.
Knauss has tested positive for nandrolone, a steroid. Nandrolone is often associated with supplements. It occurs in the human body naturally in small amounts.
Knauss tested positive after the World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta on November 27. This is the first season that alpine World Cup skiers have been subject to blood tests, but the test in Lake Louise was not a blood test. Those have only been instituted this week.
“We don’t know very much, just that the concentration is very low,” said a Brigitte Auer, a physician from the Austrian ski team, who sat beside Knauss during the announcement. “There is some possibility that it could be an endogenous hormone or an exogenous. We have to do all the steps to know what happens.”
“I don’t want to say anything,” said Hans Pum, the alpine director for the Austrian ski team. “We have to wait for the B tests.”
Knauss is one of the most popular athletes on the circuit. He won the Kitzbuehel downhill in 1999, along with six other World Cups over the years. From the small town of Schladming (near Salzburg), he is the brother of Bernard Knauss, who dominated the Pro Tour in the United States throughout the late 1980′s and early 1990′s.
Knauss was informed of the positive on Wednesday, and went immediately to Vienna for more testing. “Hans went at once two days ago to doping control,” said Auer, the team doctor, asked why the announcement was coming today. “We got the results today. It was a negative. We ordered the B sample, and the results will be in a few days.”
The FIS moves along procedural lines
The FIS, competitive skiing’s governing body, is responding to this according to a set of very rigorous guidelines. “Until the B sample has been examined, there is no case, actually,” said Sarah Lewis, the secretary general of the FIS, reached via telephone.
B samples are taken from the athlete at the same time the A sample is, and are designed to ensure a thorough and fair testing process. The B sample is to be tested in the same laboratory as the A sample.
“The next step for the Austrian federation on behalf of its athlete is to request the analysis of the B sample,” said Lewis. “That would be undertaken immediately upon reception of the request. If the B sample is negative, there is no case. If the B sample is positive, a case will be opened. And of course the athlete will have the opportunity to present his case and be entitled to put forth his defense.”
Within these protocols, it was unnecessary for Knauss to reveal the news publicly. “It’s very unusual for an announcement to be made after only an A sample,” said Lewis.
Robert Brunner, the Austrian men’s team spokesperson and media coordinator, said that Knauss decided to make the announcement because he did not want the news to leak that an unnamed Austrian skier had tested positive, thereby bringing suspicion upon his teammates.
“If it’s coming out that somebody knows that there is an Austrian, he would like to explain it,” said Brunner. “He would not like that people are thinking maybe it’s Schifferer or maybe another guy. And he was thinking, ‘no, it’s me.’”
-Erica Bulman contributed to this report