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IOC: Drug Tests on Austrians Return Negative Results
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All 10 samples taken at an unannounced test on Austrian cross country and biathlon athletes last Saturday night have returned negative results, the International Olympic Commit tee (IOC) said on Friday.


"The laboratory analysis of the 10 samples ... has been completed and the results transmitted to the IOC earlier this afternoon," IOC's director of communications Giselle Davies told a press conference.


Six cross-country skiers and four biathletes were tested last Saturday night after Italian police raided their team houses, acting on a tip-off that banned coach Walter Mayer was with the team at the Turin Games. Mayer was banned from the Olympics following allegations of blood doping at the 2002 Olympics in SaltLake City.


Standard practice according to the IOC Anti-Doping Regulations applicable to the Turin Games is not to give the details of doping control findings unless the results are positive, the IOC said in a statement.


"However, due to the exceptional nature of this case, the IOC has decided to specifically communicate that the samples did not show up any adverse findings," said Davies.


IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said the tests found no signs of banned stimulants, anabolic steroids or the blood-boosting drug EPO.


"What has been ruled out is the use of any stimulants, anabolic steroids or EPO," said Ljungvist.


But the negative results do not mean the Austrians are innocent as the IOC considers launching a thorough investigation after the Turin Games and could sanction the Austrians based on evidence found in the police raids.


"The IOC would like to stress that the doping controls of Saturday night and their ensuing results are only one element in what is undoubtedly an affair which goes far wider," said Davies.


"The IOC takes this affair very seriously and is determined to do everything within its powers to bring full clarity.


"This will include, in due course, the setting up of a disciplinary commission, which will study the various files and information gathered and hear the relevant persons," she added.


Ljungqvist also said that the Austrians could face follow-up blood tests after the Games by the international ski federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency.


"We wish to avoid the image of conducting some sort of witch hunt here, but we have reason to follow up a certain number of cases here," he said.


Ljungqvist said the IOC is still waiting for reports from Italian police on what they found during the raid.


"A positive doping test does not constitute the sole basis for a doping violation," he said.


"There are other types of anti-doping rule violations, such as the mere possession of doping substances. We don't know yet whether these athletes or coaches have been in possession. That is for the Italian authorities to inform us about."


Two of the biathletes, Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottman, fled Italy after the raid. Despite their confession to team official Markus Gandler that they may have used "illegal methods," they also proved negative in the tests.


"The athletes, to my knowledge, have been tested before they left," said Ljungqvist.


(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2006)

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