Austrian skiers and biathletes pass drug test


No evidence of doping was detected in samples from 10 Austrian skiers who had to submit to surprise drug tests last weekend, the International Olympic Committee said yesterday.

Urine tests conducted on the skiers - six cross-country skiers and four biathletes - turned up no evidence of the use of stimulants, anabolic steroids or even micro-doses of the synthetic blood-doping hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, the IOC said.

Follow-up blood tests either have been conducted or will be conducted on members of the Austrian team, the chair of the IOC's medical commission, Arne Ljungqvist of Sweden, said. He declined to provide further details.

Austrian officials declared that the negative urine samples ought to remove any cloud of suspicion.

"We are very happy that at the end of these days, it turns out there is no doping," said Heinz Jungwirth, secretary general of the Austrian Olympic Committee.

But the negative results do not mean the case is closed for Austrian athletes, coaches and officials. Under Italian law, doping is a crime - with a possible two-year jail sentence.

In Sestriere, Italy, the center of the alpine events at the Games, Italian police questioned the Austrian ski team's director, Markus Gandler, and other staff members.

Freestyle skiing -- U.S. aerials skier Jeret "Speedy" Peterson was sent home from the Games after a night of partying ended with him getting into a fight that police had to break up. A number of U.S. freestyle team members, coaches and officials had gathered socially Thursday night after the men's aerials finals in their mountain venue of Sauze D'Oulx, some staying out at a dance club until early yesterday morning. Tom Kelly, communications director for the U.S. Ski Team, said Peterson and friend Mason Fuller, an American who is not affiliated with the team, were seen fighting at a bus stop at around 9 a.m. yesterday. Kelly said he had been told Peterson appeared to be drunk, but he could not verify it firsthand. He said police officers recognized the dustup as a scuffle between friends and did not arrest them or press charges.

Short-track speed skating -- The grandfather of U.S. skater Kimberly Derrick died of an apparent heart attack yesterday while in Turin to watch her compete in her first Olympics. It was not immediately known if Derrick would go through with her lone individual event of these Games, today's 1,000 meters. Darrel Edwards, 74, traveled from Memphis, Tenn., to cheer on his granddaughter, who also was part of the 3,000 relay team that finished fourth this week.

Skeleton -- Kevin Ellis of Dallas had surgery to repair a vertebra in the middle of his back. Ellis, 32, fractured and dislocated the vertebra in a recreational sled race Thursday. He's expected to make a full recovery, Dr. Jim Sterling, the United States Olympic Committee chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Hockey -- Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano has apologized for the tone of recent criticisms of USA Hockey, saying the "timing was bad" and that he wants to help the organization in the future.

Closing ceremony -- Speed skater Joey Cheek was elected by the U.S. team to carry the American flag tomorrow night. Cheek has won two medals at the Turin Games - gold in the 500 meters and silver in the 1,000. "I feel like I'm not really worthy," he said. "It's a wonderful honor and I'm thrilled that it happened." Canadian singer Avril Lavigne will perform in an eight-minute production designed to celebrate Canada and its hosting of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Alan Abrahamson writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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