German biathletes, Austrian officials in doping-list fury

17th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The entire German biathlon team is set to sign a sworn statement and team officials also announced legal action in the wake of alleged doping allegations.

Ostersund, Sweden -- The entire German biathlon team is set to sign a sworn statement and team officials on Saturday also announced legal action in the wake of alleged doping allegations.

Stefan Schwarzbach, spokesman for the German ski federation DSV, said that all active and retired athletes have promised to sign a revised sworn statement that they have never used illegal substances or methods.

German Olympic supremo Thomas Bach expressed his support for the athletes while Austrian swimming and athletics officials also reacted sharply to a list, which has surfaced allegedly in connection with new doping probe launched earlier this week in Austria.

"The sworn statement by our athletes counts more to me than an anonymous report," Bach told DPA.

In Ostersund, Schwarzbach confirmed that former stars Uschi Disl, Katrin Apel, Sven Fischer and Ricco Gross -- who all won Olympic and world championship gold medals -- were named in the list.

He said all athletes were informed again that lying in the statement could result in imprisonment of up to three years.

Schwarzbach spoke of "a witch hunt" and said the DSV will take legal action in the latest affair.

"We will institute legal proceedings against unknown persons for slander. This is our strongest weapon," he said.

Fischer, a TV expert for the ZDF network at the current world championships in Ostersund, said: "I have done nothing in my career ... I am clean."

Three-time Olympic champion Michael Greis said after anchoring Germany to third place in the day's relay race: "I am too old to get upset by this. But it is annoying and sad that I have to explain myself for an issue which is not true."

Austria's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) started a formal investigation after it received anonymous information regarding illegal blood doping practices. It released no further information.

The Austrian APA news agency reported that the anonymous letter contained information accusing 31 athletes, mainly from the field of endurance sports and including several Olympic champions, of blood- doping and connected insurance fraud.

APA said 16 Austrian and 15 foreign athletes, 10 of them German, had been named in the letter. The Tiroler Tageszeitung said on Thursday that three doctors were also involved.

The probe comes a few weeks after a Vienna blood bank was linked with blood doping practices and 30 athletes mentioned. This issue prompted a first written statement from the German biathlon team that they had nothing to do with this issue.

It is not known whether the new case also involves the blood bank.

In Austria on Saturday, officials from sports federations with athletes on the list also expressed their outrage.

Austrian athletics supremo Hans Gloggnitzer told APA: "If there is evidence it must be presented." Swim chief Paul Schauer was quoted by APA as saying that the whole issue was "scandalous."

DPA with Expatica

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