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TORINO: Nordic: Exhausted Austrians furious after night drug raid

TORINO: Nordic: Exhausted Austrians furious after night drug raid{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – Martin Tauber thought he finally had a night to catch up on some much-needed sleep, then in stormed Italian authorities searching the Austrian living quarters for evidence of doping.

Tauber wound up staying awake all night before Sunday’s 4×10-kilometer cross-country relay.

Fatigued and furious, the Austrians finished last in the race, still reeling following an exhausting anti-doping probe. It was amazing the foursome had the energy to compete at all.

”They absolutely ruined the race,” Tauber said. ”I was already a little bit tired yesterday.”

The team of Tauber, Juergen Pinter, Roland Diethart and Johannes Eder were among at least six Austrian cross-country skiers and four biathletes given unannounced, out-of-competition drug tests by the International Olympic Committee late Saturday and early Sunday while police tore through their belongings.

While Tauber was kept up, his teammates managed only three hours’ sleep.

”We were surprised in our room,” Pinter said. ”Suddenly the police came in and didn’t let us leave on the night before the competition. This happened without any positive result from doping control in the team. There’s definitely no doping in the Austrian team. It’s crazy.”

The Austrians didn’t attend the unofficial biathlon training Sunday at San Sicario. There’s an official training session Monday for the men’s relay.

Austrian cross-country spokesman Eric Wagner accused authorities of treating the country’s athletes like ”criminals.”

”They weren’t even allowed to make a phone call,” Wagner said. ”They checked every drink, every food, and they took a lot of stuff with them. They came around 9 and stayed until 12, and then took the athletes away to be tested.”

The raids raised concern among other countries that the same thing could happen to them before the Olympics end in another week. Some supported the decision to check the Austrians, whose coach is at the center of the scandal — while others had mixed feelings.

”It’s not nice for them to be woken up at 2 a.m.,” said Pietro Piller Cottrer of the gold-medal winning Italian relay team. ”But I don’t think it was the reason they didn’t perform well today.”

The investigation started when the World Anti-Doping Agency discovered blood-doping equipment in Austria connected to Walter Mayer, the nation’s nordic team coach who was banned from the Olympics for suspicion of performing blood transfusions at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

‘We were concerned something might be going on in Italy,” WADA chief Dick Pound said.

Mayer was not found during the overnight raids in the mountain hamlets of San Sacario and Pragelato, where the nordic teams are staying. He was no longer in Italy as of Sunday, said Mario Pescante, IOC member and government supervisor for the Games.

Mayer was later involved in a bizarre police chase in Austria. Read that story here.

Some athlates applauded the tough doping crackdown.

”It’s good to see the system is working,” said Norwegian cross-country skier Frode Estil, the silver medalist in the pursuit race Feb. 12. ”They have to do what they have to do. I had a doping test at 11 a.m. and that was OK for me. I didn’t hear that they raided the Austrians but for me, it’s no problem. If that’s necessary then we have to have it. It’s important to keep the sport clean.”

U.S. biathlon coach Algis Shalna welcomed such testing of the Americans.

”If someone wants to come check us, check all you want to,” Shalna said.

What do you think?


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