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January 11, 2006
WENGEN, Switzerland (AP by Erica Bulman)—Relaxed and smiling but not talking, Bode Miller finished fifth during World Cup downhill training Wednesday while teammates, sponsors and officials awaited his response to criticism of comments he made about skiing and drinking.
Miller finished in 2 minutes, 31.06 seconds in an opening training run won by Olympic champion Fritz Strobl on the classic Lauberhorn course in 2:30.79. He left without speaking to reporters.
Miller has avoided the media since excerpts of a CBS interview were released last week. He is scheduled to make a statement Thursday.
“He wants to clarify his comments on the ’60 Minutes’ show that aired Sunday,” U.S. team spokesman Marc Habermann said. “With all the media attention, he felt it necessary to clarify his point of view and make the public and media understand his point of view.”
Miller was summoned by United States Ski and Snowboard Association president and chief executive Bill Marolt the previous day to discuss his comments in an interview about skiing drunk.
The USSA was swamped with angry phone calls from team donors and corporate sponsors after the overall World Cup champion said during a “60 Minutes” profile on CBS that it’s not easy “to ski when you’re wasted.”
Marolt traveled to Wengen following Sunday’s show to meet with Miller and “work with him to both recognize the seriousness of his comments and to reach a positive outcome.”
Earlier this season, Miller caused an uproar by calling for liberalized anti-doping rules. Teammates say they are now targeted for increased drug testing.
Last month, Miller refused to take an equipment test to ensure his ski boots conformed to regulations and was fined $762. The team ended up paying the fine for him.
Miller, who last year threatened to skip the Olympics and launch a rebel ski tour, often talks of a deep lack of motivation, complains about sponsor obligations and gripes about excessive media attention.
Teammate Daron Rahlves, who is targeting the World Cup downhill title in what is probably his final season on the circuit, finished ninth. Rahlves, the winner of two downhill races this season, is tied with Miller for second behind Benjamin Raich in the overall World Cup standings.
Last year, Rahlves missed this race after a crash in the giant slalom in Adelboden.
“It’s good to be back racing in Wengen,” he said. “I missed this race last year,” said Rahlves, who last year was forced to sit out the prestigious race after a crash in the giant slalom in Adelboden.
Copyright (c) 2005 The Associated Press