Ski federation clears coach Mayer of doping in Turin

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The Independent Online

The Austrian Ski Federation has cleared the banned Olympic coach Walter Mayer of any involvement with doping at the recent Games in Turin.

An investigative commission, made up of three independent judges, found no evidence that Mayer was behind any coordinated doping effort at the Winter Olympics in February, said the ski federation spokesman, Josef Schmid.

Mayer was banned from the Olympics following allegations of blood doping at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, but travelled to Turin for the 2006 games.

Mayer left the Olympic village after police raided the living quarters of the Austrian biathlon and cross-country ski teams in search of banned substances and equipment, crashing his car into a police blockade in Austria and ending up in a psychiatric hospital.

During the raids, Italian police seized what they described as blood equipment, syringes and other materials. At the same time, Olympic doping control officers conducted surprise drug tests on six Austrian cross-country skiers and four biathletes.

While the urine tests came back negative, the International Olympic Committee and Italian police are continuing to investigate.

Mayer has maintained his innocence over the past few months, saying the allegations were baseless.

Schmid said he could not provide a copy of the commission's report. The Austrian broadcaster ORF first reported the findings on Thursday night.

"For us it was clear from the very beginning that Walter Mayer did nothing illegal in Italy and now three independent judges have confirmed that," Mayer's lawyer, Herwig Hasslacher, told the Associated Press yesterday.

"The Italian authorities have nothing negative in hand against Walter Mayer," Hasslacher added.

When asked for a reaction to the Austrian commission's findings, an IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the organisation was carrying out its own "totally independent" investigation. She declined to comment on the investigation's status but said the IOC was waiting for information from Italian authorities.

Mayer has also filed defamation lawsuits in Vienna against the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, and the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, for comments made after the raid.