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All Austrian athletes negative: IOC

February 25, 2006 11:57 IST

The International Olympic Committee on Friday pledged to continue an investigation into the Austrian biathlon and cross-country skiing team despite negative drugs test on 10 of their athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Turin.

"The samples did not show up any adverse findings," IOC director of communications, Giselle Davies, told a news conference in Turin. But she said the tests were only one element of "this undoubtedly wider affair".

"The IOC takes this affair very seriously and will do what it can within its power to bring full clarity to what happened over the last days."

The urine samples were taken last Saturday at homes of the teams competing in the Games during a night-time drugs swoop which was done jointly with Italian police authorities.

The two Austrian teams have since been the subject of an IOC and Italian police investigation after drugs and blood transfusion equipment was found at the lodgings.

The IOC confirmed the samples are all negative but said an IOC disciplinary commission would be set up soon to further investigate, given that the athletes or coaches could have violated other anti-doping rules such as possession or attempted use of banned substances or methods.

She said the commission to investigate and possibly sanction the Austrians would be set up "quite soon".

But Arne Ljungqvist, head of the IOC medical commission, said this is not a witch hunt against the Austrians who have criticised the IOC of targeting them for no reason.

"We want to avoid any kind of image of coordinating a witch hunt but we have reason ... to follow up a certain number of cases by blood analysis," he said.

Italian authorities would soon inform the IOC of their discoveries in the athletes' homes and that evidence would also be brought before the commission.

"What has been ruled out is the use of any stimulants, anabolic steroids," Ljungqvist said. "The standard menu has been used for this analysis and this was negative."

"All results we have are conclusive."


He said doping testers had already started taking blood samples from the athletes for further testing, adding once the Games were over the International Skiing Federation (FIS) would be responsible for the tests.

Two of the 10 athletes have left the Games unexpectedly fearing the investigation and will now most likely have to be tested by the FIS in Austria since the Games end on Sunday.

Leo Wallner, president of the Austrian Olympic Committee, said: "It's a good result for us. All the tests were negative."

Austria have taken their best Olympics medal haul -- 19 medals with eight golds -- during the Games which close on Sunday.

But their best performance ever at a Winter Games has been tarnished by doping allegations, triggered by coach Walter Mayer, who was banned four years ago but reappeared near the athletes at the Games, and the alleged discovery of blood transfusion equipment, syringes and medication.

Peter Schroecksnadel, president of the Austrian Ski Federation, said on Friday: "When you take blood and urine samples at 11 at night you are not looking for instruments, you are looking for doping in the blood. That has proved negative.

"I am happy because it proves I was right to trust my athletes."

Asked about the future of Austria's biathlon and cross-country skiing sporting director, Markus Gandler, Schroecksnadel added: "I was asked to fire him but I refused because I trust him."

The IOC is still waiting for information from Italian authorities on anything they found during the raid.

(Additional reporting by Sophie Hardach in Sestriere)


Karlos Grohmann in Turin
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