Austrians fear future Games ban

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The Independent Online

An Austrian official yesterday voiced fears that the team could be banned from future Games by the International Olympic Committee following last Saturday's doping raid on their cross country and biathlon skiers here.

"There's a storm brewing at the IOC," the Austrian Olympic Committee secretary general, Heinz Jungwirth, said. "Whether the doping tests are positive or negative doesn't matter. There was equipment found that was clearly not allowed, including equipment for blood transfusions. People are thinking about punishing us, even about banning us. We want to avoid that. The damage of a ban would be impossible to make good again."

The IOC, however, rejected claims that ties with the Austrians were strained. "There are perfectly good relations between ourselves and the Austrian National Olympic Committee," an IOC spokeswoman said. "There's no pressure being put by the IOC."

Nevertheless, the Austrians, second in the medals table behind Germany, have launched a concerted campaign to make good any damage to their image.

The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, who met the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, shortly after the doping raid, is maintaining that the affair will not hurt Salzburg's bid for the 2014 Winter Games. That said, it has disrupted their plans to put their case to members at these Games.

The head of the Austrian Ski Federation, Peter Schroecksnadel, has arrived in Turin after being summoned to meet an Italian prosecutor.

The police raid was triggered by the presence of the Austrian coach, Walter Mayer, who was banned from the Games up to and including the Winter Olympics in 2010 for his role in a blood transfusion scandal at Salt Lake City in 2002.

The IOC initially said the results of tests would be published within two or three days, but that deadline has now passed.

Investigations are being conducted by the IOC and the Austrian Olympic Committee, who yesterday recruited Dr Stephan Netzle, the Swiss attorney and member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who was responsible for confirming the initial ban on Mayer.

Mayer is currently detained in a psychiatric hospital following detention by the police on his way back to Austria after he tried to ram a roadblock.

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