Austria’s Knauss retires after doping ban upheld


Austria’s Knauss retires after doping ban upheld{mosimage}GENEVA – An international sports court upheld Austrian skier Hans Knauss’ 18-month doping ban Wednesday, finding him negligent for using nutritional supplements containing steroids.

The 34-year-old Knauss said he will retire because of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling, which will prevent him from competing at next year’s Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

‘Ahead of the hearing I said I would step down if my appeal was denied. This is what I will do now’ Knauss said. ‘I have never taken any illegal medication knowingly.’

Knauss had appealed to the CAS, seeking to have his ban reduced to one year. But a three-man panel said the 18-month penalty was ‘fair and reasonable’ and ruled that Knauss will remain ineligible until May 26, 2006.

The Austrian took silver in the giant slalom at the 2003 World Championships as well as seven World Cup victories in 14 seasons.

Knauss tested positive for the steroid nandrolone at a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 27, 2004. He could have faced a two-year ban. The international ski federation, FIS, imposed a lesser penalty March 1, saying Knauss did not act intentionally.

‘The CAS panel clearly did not see any reason to change FIS’s decision’ FIS General Secretary Sarah Lewis said. ‘All doping cases are disappointing for different reasons. And of course there is always a certain sadness when it’s associated to personal tragedy.

‘But (we must) ensure our sport is fair for all competitors.’

The CAS panel ruled that Knauss acted negligently by using a nutritional supplement despite ‘repeated warnings’ from various sports and anti-doping bodies that supplements can contain banned substances.

Knauss acknowledged long-term use of supplements produced by a company called ‘Ultimate Nutrition.’ Lab results showed the supplements were the likely source of nandrolone in his system.

CAS noted that Knauss had provided Austrian anti-doping officials with information about the supplier of the supplements, leading to the confiscation of the remaining stocks.

The panel said it was convinced that Knauss did not take the supplements to cheat and found that he had not committed a ‘significant negligence’ under the FIS rules.

It said the mitigating circumstances were enough to reduce the normal two-year penalty, but by no more than six months.

‘The panel concluded that the 18-month ban imposed by FIS was fair and reasonable considering the risk taken by Hans Knauss by using nutritional supplements’ it said.

‘Hans is certainly disappointed because we were hopeful until the very end’ Knauss’ lawyer Christian Flick told The Associated Press. ‘But … he is rather relieved that at least a decision was made, that the waiting is over.

‘He has always been true to his word, so his retirement is no surprise.’

The Austrian ski federation said it would look into if and how Knauss could challenge the decision.

‘The disappointment is great because the sanctions do not appear proportional to the offense at hand and in other sports are penalized with much shorter bans’ the federation said in a statement.

Associated Press writer Harry Miltner in Vienna, Austria, contributed to this report.

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