U.S. bobsledder detained, released

Updated: February 26, 2010, 2:36 AM ET
Associated Press

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Alone in the back of an empty truck used to transport bobsleds, Bill Schuffenhauer buried his head in his arm and cried.

This was not the Olympic moment he had in mind.

Schuffenhauer, a 36-year-old pushman in driver Mike Kohn's USA-3 sled, returned to practice Thursday hours after being questioned by Canadian police. He was detained and released after an argument with his fiancee, Ruthann Savage, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press.

Police released Schuffenhauer after finding no evidence of a crime, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

[+] EnlargeBill Schuffenhauer
AP Photo/Michael SohnAlthough Bill Schuffenhauer is expected to compete in Friday and Saturday's four-man event, he was clearly shaken at practice.

Although Schuffenhauer is expected to compete in Friday and Saturday's four-man event, he is clearly shaken.

Following Thursday's practice run, he stepped from the back of the bobsled and walked away from his teammates. He spent roughly one minute in the truck, using the time to compose himself while athletes, track officials and workers busily loaded sleds for their trip up the mountain.

Back outside, he wiped away tears.

While Kohn and teammates Jamie Moriarty and Nick Cunningham spoke to reporters following their final pre-race tuneup, Schuffenhauer remained on the loading dock next to the track's finish area.

"I didn't get to talk to him about it," Kohn said. "There's an ongoing investigation. I don't know the facts. We're just trying to focus on the race right now. He's going through a tough time."

Darrin Steele, chief executive of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, said Schuffenhauer was not arrested. Steele said Schuffenhauer was held for two or three hours but offered few other details about the matter, other than to say it did not take place at the athletes' village.

"They brought him in and asked him some questions," Steele said. "I guess they felt like they had the answers that they needed and they let him go. I don't think there's a whole lot there. "

Steele was confident Schuffenhauer, a silver medalist in four-man at Salt Lake City in 2002, would be able to participate in his third Olympics.

"It looks like nothing further is going to happen," Steele said. "Looking at the whole thing, I don't foresee any way that he would not race, regardless of how things progress. It seems like the kind of thing that blows over fairly quickly. ... I suspect there won't be much of a story."

Canadian police declined comment, citing privacy laws.

Like many athletes, Schuffenhauer has made great sacrifice to chase his Olympic dream.

After finishing sixth four years ago in Italy, Schuffenhauer wanted one more shot at a gold medal. To do so, he quit his bank job, leaving Savage, a nurse, to support him and his 4-year-old son, Corben. The financial hardships never eased. Schuffenhauer had trouble getting sponsors and lost his house and car in pursuit of another medal.

He came to the Vancouver Games by himself, but Procter & Gamble picked up the tab to send Savage and Corben through a program that helps family members watch their loved ones compete in the Olympics.

"It was just hard to fathom not being able to share this all with them," Schuffenhauer said this week during a joyous reunion. "We did this as a family."

Steele has known Schuffenhauer for at least 10 years. He admires the determination the former decathlete has shown.

"The sacrifices he made are more than most people, more than I would have made as an athlete," Steele said. "We've got a lot of admiration for Billy and for what he has done to get here."

Schuffenhauer had a troubled childhood in Salt Lake City. His mother was a drug addict and for a time he was homeless. When he won his silver medal, his mother watched his race from jail.

"I come from garbage," Schuffenhauer said last year. "To come from where I come, no one could be prouder of me than me."

Schuffenhauer has dedicated himself to helping others.

"He is the first to reach out to any of our charity partners," Steele said. "He's the first to help with the kids at the camps, so we've got a lot of respect for how he got here and how he lives his life. We're certainly going to give him the benefit of the doubt until there is a time where we can't. But I don't anticipate this being that time at all."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press