Olympics: Second sample damns Spaniard

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The Independent Online

The second sample of Johann Muehlegg's failed drugs test has also proved positive. The Spanish cross-country skier was stripped of his 50 kilometres freestyle gold last week after testing positive for the blood-boosting drug darbepoetin (NESP) which is similar in action to erythropoietin (EPO).

The German-born skier, who faces a two-year ban, protested his innocence. "I really don't know how that result came up," he said after hearing the result of the A test. "I haven't taken any drugs. I don't know where all this came from."

The Spanish delegation argued that NESP is not on the proscribed list. However, the IOC's code also bans substances with similar properties to those on the list.

The two gold medals that Muehlegg is allowed to keep, the 10km and the 30km freestyle, are Spain's first skiing gold medals since 1972, but opinions in Europe were united in their condemnation. The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet said: "This is the biggest doping scandal since Ben Johnson. Muehlegg will not be remembered as a great skier, but as a cheat."

Swix, who make Muehlegg's poles, is refusing to pay the bonuses incorporated in its sponsorship deal for any of his medals, not just the one that was taken away. "This was a breach of confidence," a spokesman said. "We are shocked."