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TORINO: Hemoglobin issue lands Salt Lake champ, 2 U.S. skiers on FIS start prohibition l

TORINO: Hemoglobin issue lands Salt Lake champ, 2 U.S. skiers on FIS “start prohibition” l{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – A Salt Lake Olympics cross-country medalist and two Americans were among eight skiers hit with a five-day ‘start prohibition’ Thursday due to excessive hemoglobin levels.

The International Ski Federation said in a release dated Thursday, Feb. 9: ‘In the course of the pre-competition blood testing carried out by FIS in Torino whereby all cross-country and nordic combined athletes will be tested prior to their first competition at the Olympic Winter Games, [eight] athletes have today been issued with a start prohibition for five consecutive days due to too-high hemoglobin values.’

The athletes listed are:

Kikkan Randall (USA), female
Leif Zimmermann (USA), male
Evi Sachenbacher Stehle (GER), female
Sean Crooks (CAN), male
Sergey Dalidovich (BLR), male
Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA), male
Aleksandr Latzukin (BLR), male
Natalia Matveeva (RUS), female

Randall, 24, from Anchorage, Alaska, is a five-time U.S. champion – three times in sprints. She raced in world juniors in 2000 and 2001; World Championships in 2001, 2003, 2005; and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Zimmermann, 23, from Bozeman, Montana, was the 2004 U.S. freestyle sprint champion and was fifth in the 2003 world juniors freestyle sprint in 2003. The Torino Games are his first Olympics.

Sachenbacher Stehle won a gold medal as part of the 4×5-kilometer cross-country relay at the 2002 Games and took silver in the individual sprint.

This prohibition from participating in the competition(s) is not a sanction, but is considered to serve to protect the health of the athlete, according to the FIS. Consequently, no disciplinary measures will be taken.

Randall was expected to be a member of the U.S. women’s cross-country team sprint, which takes place Tuesday, Feb. 14, as well as the women’s sprint on Feb. 22.

The FIS said in the two days of testing, 224 athletes have been tested. The total number of cross-country and nordic combined athletes participating in the XX Olympic Winter Games is 330 and 63, respectively.

Hemoglobin is a protein that is carried by red cells. It picks up oxygen in the lungs and delivers it to the peripheral tissues to maintain the viability of cells.

A start prohibition results from the process that is defined in the Article B.4.2 of the
Procedural Guidelines to the FIS Anti-Doping Rules:

‘If an Athlete shows a hemoglobin value that is equal to or exceeds the values of 16.0 g/dl for ladies and 17.0 g/dl for men after two consecutive measurements, the Athlete will be notified by the representative of the Jury that he/she is not allowed to start any competitions for five consecutive days, including the day on which the test took place: e.g. if the blood test takes place on Monday the Athlete will not be permitted to start again until Saturday (and then only subject to the results of a new blood test, as defined in Article B.4.5).’

The FIS release added that in cases where athletes have natural hemoglobin values that exceed the limits of 16.0 g/dl for ladies and 17.0 g/dl for men, they are required to provide certification for review by a specialist appointed by the FIS before the start of each season, respectively their first competition.

For the 2005-06 season, six athletes have been granted a dispensation from the FIS Hb rule for the entire season, whilst six additional athletes have been granted a temporary dispensation valid for a defined period of time including the Olympic Winter Games.

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