Friday, March 1, 2002
Pound says explanation is 'far-fetched'
LONDON -- Austrian officials contend there were legitimate
medical reasons for the blood-transfusion equipment found in a
house used by their cross-country skiers during the Olympics.
The head of the IOC's drug agency on Friday called the
The Austrian ski federation said its athletes used the material
for ultraviolet radiation treatment of their blood, describing the
method as being "exclusively for disease prevention" and not
"First, it doesn't sound credible," IOC medical director
Patrick Schamasch said. "Second, any kind of blood manipulation is
part of the doping definition. The Austrian position is not
relevant for me."
World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound said "it sounds so
far-fetched that it has no credibility. It's clear there are teams
that are putting medical experts into a mode of helping their
athletes cheat. That is clearly unacceptable."
Blood doping, in which athletes draw blood and then inject it to
increase oxygen capacity and boost endurance, is banned by the
International Olympic Committee.
The IOC began an investigation Thursday after cleaners found
blood transfusion bags, tubes and needles in a closet in Midway,
Utah, near the Nordic ski venue at Soldier Hollow. The house had
been rented to the Austrian team and was used by about 10 athletes.
Wasatch County Sheriff Mike Spano gathered the evidence and
turned it over to doping controls officials of the Salt Lake
Organizing Committee for analysis. Spano said the equipment had
been drained of all but residual blood, indicating it had been
The IOC said it may use DNA testing to determine who was using
Schamasch said the investigation would take about a week. If
there is proof of doping, the IOC could take sanctions against the
Austrians, including possible disqualifications and stripping of
"Everything may be considered," Schamasch said by telephone
from Lausanne, Switzerland, adding that IOC president Jacques Rogge
is "fully committed to go until the end of this case."
Pound added: "Whatever measures can be taken, should be taken.
There should be no rest for these folks."
Austria won three Olympic medals in Nordic events at Soldier
Hollow. Christian Hoffmann won the silver and Mikhail Botvinov the
bronze in the 30-kilometer race. Wolfgang Perner took the bronze in
the 10-kilometer biathlon sprint.
A certificate belonging to Botvinov was found inside a plastic
bag containing the blood transfusion equipment, Cathy Priestner
Allinger, head of sport for the 2002 Games, told the Salt Lake
Other members of the Austrian team included Marc Mayer, Reinhard
Neuner, Achim Walcher and Alexander Marent.
In Vienna, the Austrian federation said Nordic coach Walter
Mayer had applied a "paramedical method" to prevent his athletes
from catching colds and flu.
The federation said the method consists of taking a small amount
of blood -- up to 100 milliliters -- and subjecting it to ultraviolet
light radiation and magnetic-field treatment before reinjecting it
within 10 minutes. In addition, the athlete is given a vitamin C
"This method is quite common among nonmedical practitioners and
at spas," the federation said. "After a detailed examination of
the subject matter ... there is no indication of a violation of
existing rules ... because of the lack of a performance-enhancing
The federation said the Austrian team doctor, Peter Baumgartl,
had not been informed the skiers were using the method.
"No question, this does not look very nice, but there are no
results, no indications that something illegal was done," said
Manuela Valvoda, deputy general secretary of the Austrian Olympic
"We have been getting into contact with our ski federation and
the people concerned. There will be an investigation. Of course we
support this investigation. It is fair for the benefit of all of
them that the situation is really clarified."
Schamasch, a medical doctor, discounted any legitimate medical
reasons for the athletes using blood injections.
"I do not see any other explanation except if you can come to
the Olympic Games with a very ill person who needs a blood pack,"
he said. "As far as I know we didn't have any athletes in Salt
Lake City suffering from renal failure."
Schamasch said traditional blood doping had become virtually
"obsolete" with the advent of synthetic endurance-boosting drugs
like EPO and darbepoetin.
"I was quite convinced that blood doping in itself is not so
widespread," he said. "It's a very old technique. I thought it
had been stopped after Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter
Three cross-country athletes, all gold medalists, tested
positive during the games for darbepoetin, which acts like EPO in
boosting production of oxygen-rich red blood cells.
Spain's Johann Muehlegg was stripped of his gold in the
50-kilometer race, one of his three gold medals; Russia's Larissa
Lazutina lost her gold in the 30-kilometer race; and Russia's Olga
Danilova was disqualified from the 30K event. All three kept medals
won in earlier races.