February 23, 2006
TURIN, Italy (AP by Ariel David)—The doping samples from 10 members of Austria's Nordic ski team were still being analyzed Thursday, five days after the athletes were targeted for surprise, out-of-competition tests.
Meanwhile, Austria's ski federation president met with Italian prosecutors to discuss the scandal centering on the team's links with banned coach Walter Mayer.
The International Olympic Committee insisted there was nothing unusual in the apparent delay in getting the test results, ruling out any conspiracy and saying more time was needed to check for the blood-boosting drug EPO.
"The laboratory analysis is still ongoing, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said at her daily news briefing. "It just takes this long sometimes, and that's the bottom line.
Six Austrian cross-country skiers and four biathletes were rousted from their private living quarters late Saturday for unannounced tests. At the same time, Italian police raided the lodgings and seized blood transfusion equipment and other materials linked to Mayer.
Austrian ski federation chief Peter Schroecksnadel was meeting with prosecutors at Turin's main judicial offices, said Giampaolo Zancan, a high-profile Italian lawyer hired by the Austrians.
"He is meeting prosecutors as a witness, Zancan told The Associated Press. "I accompanied him and left him there, because as a witness he doesn't need a lawyer with him.
Davies earlier this week indicated the drug-test results would be known within 72 hours, but that time frame passed without any announcement.
"It's not a specific deadline, she said Thursday. "Testing can take time. It's a thorough analysis for all the prohibited substances, including EPO. This can take a number of days. It's absolutely standard, normal procedure.
Davies dismissed suggestions the results were being withheld.[pagebreak]"You shouldn't read anything more into it, she said. "There are a number of conspiracy theories floating around, not based on any factual information. The technicians must be given time to do their work. It's not a straightforward process. That's it.
Davies said she expects the results to be in by the end of the games on Sunday night.
"One would imagine we should have tests back before the games are over, she said.
Davies said the release of the results had nothing to do with the separate Italian criminal inquiry into the Austrian case.
"There is no link whatsoever, she said. "They are two separate issues.
Davies also dismissed comparisons with the doping case of Russian biathlon star Olga Pyleva, who was kicked out of the games last week and stripped of her silver medal _ just three days after having a drug test that revealed a banned stimulant.
"It's inappropriate to make comparisons with another case for a different substance in a different time period, Davies said. "The laboratory is doing its work according to its time frame.
The IOC welcomed Wednesday's announcement by the Austrian Olympic Committee that it has formed a commission to investigate the scandal. The Austrians said they had to move quickly to avoid punishment from the IOC, including a possible ban.
"There's no pressure being put by the IOC, Davies said. "We welcome the inquiry commission set up the Austrians. It will help shed light on the situation.
The IOC will set up a special commission to investigate the whole case, a probe which will cover Austria's Olympic committee, ski federation, athletes and coaches. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the body could sanction the Austrians even without any athletes testing positive for banned substances.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press