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Austrian: 3 Dope Tests, 3 Negatives
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Veteran Austrian biathlete Ludwig Gredler mounted a passionate defence of his country's sporting reputation on Tuesday by revealing that he had undergone a series of Olympic dope tests and passed them all.

"This week I've had three anti-doping tests, one of which was also a blood test, and all were negative," said the 38-year-old.

Gredler, taking part in his fifth Olympics, hit out at the controversy which has engulfed his biathlon and cross-country teammates following a pair of Italian police raids on their team's Alpine bases.

On Tuesday, Gredler and his 4x7.5km relay squad finished last out of 17 starters, almost seven minutes behind winners Germany.

"We were very upset by these checks but we never considered not taking part. Let's hope that these checks show that we are a clean team and that eventually someone will say sorry for everything we've had to endure over recent days.

"Naturally, these are the laws of Italy and we have to follow them. Team Austria is a small group and we live in close proximity of each other.

"I can't know what happens in other rooms. I know I am clean and that I have taken nothing, but I can't speak for my teammates."

Fellow competitor Christophe Sumann was damning of the raids, the first of which took place Saturday with police acting on a tip-off that coach Walter Mayer, banned by the IOC until the 2010 Olympics, was with the team.

"The whole situation is shitty," said Sumann.

"It is tough to come here and race when everybody looks at you as if you are guilty.

"The police found nothing in my room. They could come any time, they would find nothing."

The Austrians went into Tuesday's race without Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottman who have been kicked off the squad after returning to Austria without permission.

Perner and Rottman's coach Markus Gandler said that both had admitted they may have employed illegal methods in their preparations for the Games.

The head of the Austrian Ski Federation Peter Schrocksnadel said that both biathletes would be subject to an internal inquiry.

The team was sixth at Salt Lake City in 2002 while they finished third at the 2005 world championships but without Perner.

On January 12 this year, at Ruhpolding in Germany, Austria were second in a World Cup relay ahead of Norway, the defending Olympic champions.

Perner was a bronze medallist at the 2002 Games in the sprint and ninth in the pursuit. In Turin, he was fourth in the sprint.

Despite the controversy, Austria have won eight golds here to lead the medals table with Germany.

Their most recent gold came on Tuesday with Felix Gottwald taking the nordic combined sprint title.

(China Daily February 23, 2006)


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