Austrian Ski Team Swept Up in Police Doping Raid

TORINO, Italy, Feb. 20, 2006 — -- It was a late night raid and a mad chase to the border.

Police, acting on a tip from the World Anti-Doping Agency, found more than 100 syringes and 30 packs of drugs, including asthma drugs and antidepressants, at the living quarters of Austrian cross-country skiers and biathletes during a search of their quarters this weekend.

Today, Italian authorities are awaiting test results on syringes and other used medical equipment seized.

Austrians Deny Doping

"I fully think and believe that they are completely, as we call it, clean," said Heinz Jungwirth, head of the Austrian Olympic Committee.

Guilty or not, WADA chief Richard Pound hopes to get answers soon.

"I don't know what's behind it all," Pound said in an interview with ABC News. "I'm hoping some of the tests will be definitive one way or the other."

Italian police raided the Austrian rooms late Saturday night. The search lasted several hours and the Austrian cross-country team blamed it for its last-place finish in Sunday's 4x10 kilometer relay.

Ten athletes were taken in for doping tests. Results are expected today or Tuesday.

The Austrian athletes denied they had used banned substances. Police told reporters they found used medical gear during their search. Some of it was discovered in a bag that had been tossed out a window.

One of the two Austrian biathletes who left Turin after the raid told a local news agency he fled because he was afraid Italy would jail him.

"After the search, I just wanted to go," said Wolfgang Perner. "A South Tyrolean carabinieri told me there were things I wasn't supposed to have. I thought I'd rather leave before they jail me and I don't see my family again."

Perner said the carabinieri's search had been "inhuman." "I had to fully undress twice until I was completely naked," he said.

Rumor Has It

Police jumped into action after hearing a rumor that a former coach banned from the Olympics for doping, Walter Mayer, had been lurking around the Austrian cross-country and biathletes. Mayer was banned from the Olympics for 10 years during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

"If you hang out with a guy and he's your official coach --," Pound said. "I mean, this is somebody that's been banned by the IOC, banned by the FIS [International Ski Federation], you've got to expect that you're going to be tested a little more often.

The involvement of Italian carabinieri marked the first time police have been used to crack down on suspected doping at an Olympics.

"The gloves are off now," said Pound. "The public authorities and sports authorities are prepared to work together."

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