Skiing: Austrians face fines for `prank'

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THE DOUBLE Olympic champion, Hermann Maier, and his fellow Austrian Andreas Schifferer face fines for a "typical boys' prank" after last week's World Cup Alpine ski races in Aspen, Colorado. The World Cup overall champion, Maier, and the World Cup downhill champion, Schifferer, were stopped by police after rowdily riding a bicycle in the early hours of the morning at the weekend.

"Although this was a typical boys' prank, it is serious," said the Austrian men's head coach, Werner Margreiter. "They are representatives of our team so we expect them to behave accordingly. They can afford such an action as long as they are both winning races, but they haven't been and therefore should stick to the rules."

Margreiter said the fine would be higher than the 10,000 schillings (pounds 527) both Maier and Schifferer paid after missing the draw for World Cup races in Tignes, France, last year.

After attending a party in Aspen, Maier and Schifferer were in a hurry to collect their baggage at the hotel in order not to miss their flight to Vancouver en route to this weekend's World Cup races at Whistler Mountain.

But contrary to reports, they did not take a bicycle they found on the street but were given one by the party's host. "We were unable to get a taxi so we borrowed the bicycle," Maier said. "Police officials stopped us and asked us for our documents which we did not have on us."

Maier and Schifferer were released by police after their coach for technical disciplines, Toni Giger, arrived with the documents. Giger said: "To return from a party at dawn is not what we consider the right attitude towards training. With such an action, Maier and Schifferer have put themselves two days behind in training."