German skier banned for 5 days at Turin Olympics

10th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 February 2006, SESTRIERE, ITALY - Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, a relay gold medallist from 2002, is one of eight skiers who will miss the first Olympic cross-country race Sunday after the ruling body FIS suspended them on Friday for having too high levels of haemoglobin.

10 February 2006

SESTRIERE, ITALY - Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, a relay gold medallist from 2002, is one of eight skiers who will miss the first Olympic cross-country race Sunday after the ruling body FIS suspended them on Friday for having too high levels of haemoglobin.

But German Olympic officials vowed to fight the decision and have already tried to gather support from other nations with suspended athletes to take action against the FIS.

Sachenbacher-Stehle's haemoglobin count was beyond the permitted 16.0 level, in her case 16.3. A high haemoglobin level (limited at 17.0 for men) can be an indication of EPO blood doping.

The other skiers are Sean Crooks of Canada, Sergey Dalidovich and Aleksandr Latzukin of Belarus, Jean Marc Gaillard of France, Natalia Matveeva of Russia, as well as Kikkan Randall and Leif Zimmermann of the United States.

All athletes, who submitted the results in out-of-competition tests, are suspended for five days for health reasons, meaning they miss Sunday's pursuit races for men and women.

They will be tested again on Monday, February 13, and will be eligible to compete at the Olympics if their haemoglobin count has fallen back below the permitted level.

The FIS said it had tested 224 of the 330 Olympic cross-country skiers and 63 Nordic combined skiers. A total of 1,200 doping tests are scheduled for the Turin Olympics.

"We know that the international federation conducts these health tests. I want to emphasise that this not a doping case. There has been no positive test for doping," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.

A teary-eyed Sachenbacher-Stehle told reporters after training Friday: "My first thought was, oh shit. That's my best race at the Olympics. At home, I normally drink a lot. And I've never done anything suspicious. I'm the last person who would do something like this."

After that short comment Sachenbacher-Stehle broke down and left the press conference.

Sachenbacher-Stehle anchored Germany to the relay gold in 2002 when the favoured Russians were unable to compete because one of their skiers was suspended for the same reason. She also won a sprint silver medal at the Salt Lake City Games.

"We have a problem that athletes who have done nothing wrong, and all tests in the end will be proven negative, have to wait five days and cannot compete," said Dr. Ernst Jakob, the German ski federation (DSV) team doctor.

German officials said they were looking into filing an injunction before an appropriate appeals body because the FIS violated its own rules by reportedly not conducting an EPO doping test immediately after the high haemoglobin level was announced.

"Our lawyers are looking at it. We'll see if anything can be done," said German Olympic committee spokesman Michael Schirp.

German cross country coach Jochen Behle said he was trying to drum up support from other nations.

"I've talked to other teams including the French and they have expressed an interest to do something against FIS's random action," Behle said.

The DSV tried to get a special exemption status in August for Sachenbacher-Stehle due to higher haemoglobin levels at altitude training but that was rejected by FIS.

"We saw it coming. We gave them the medical certificates far in advance. And there was no urine sample taken for EPO and since they were allowed to go they thought everything was okay," said German cross-country team doctor Ullrich Schneider.

Sachenbacher-Stehle is not the only German to have had a higher than permitted haemoglobin count.

Late last year Jens Filbrich was also suspended for five days, but the German federation proved that his high level came from naturally- produced haemoglobin and could be explained by his genetic profile with several family members having similar blood counts.

Filbrich was granted special exemption status by FIS until the end of the season, one of six athletes who has this status. They include another German, Franz Goering.

"It should be up to the athlete to decide if they feel they can race or not. And if so, then they would then sign a waiver," Behle said.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article