TORINO: Blood transfusion machine found at Austrian nordic team living quarters


TORINO: Blood transfusion machine found at Austrian nordic team living quarters{mosimage}TORINO, Italy – A disgraced Austrian ski coach left behind syringes in the home he rented for the Torino Olympics, and more details were revealed Tuesday about what was seized in a surprise weekend raid on the living quarters of athletes and staff – including unlabeled drugs and a blood transfusion machine.

An Italian prosecutor inspected the private home in the mountain hamlet of Pragelato Monday night where banned coach Walter Mayer had been staying before he bolted the Olympics following the raids, police said Tuesday.

Mario Pescante, IOC member and government supervisor for the Games, said that syringes were found during the search. Torino Carabinieri paramilitary police spokesman Roberto Cicatelli stressed that the inspection was not considered a second raid, since no one was staying in the home when it was entered.

In a series of raids conducted late Saturday on team housing in Pragelato and nearby San Sicario, police seized about 100 syringes, unlabeled medicine bottles, boxes of prescription drugs and a blood-transfusion machine, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The source asked not to be identified because the investigation was ongoing.

Transfusions can be used to oxygenate the blood before competition, which increases endurance. The source said, however, that no blood was found along with the device.

Prescription drugs found in the raid carried warning labels saying they contained banned substances, but the source said at least some members of the team had prescriptions for those.

The seized materials were still being analyzed by Italian authorities, but no test results were announced as of Tuesday.

Six skiers and four biathletes were taken for drug screens by the IOC as a part of the raid, and IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said a detailed statement would be released only for positive tests. She did say, however, that in this case the IOC would give an indication of when the testing process was completed.

Austria’s ski federation president, Peter Schroecksnadel, was incensed by the continued scrutiny.

”I think they’re going too far with the whole thing,” Schroecksnadel said. ”This is not sport. … We won’t live with this. We can’t have our guys going through this. It’s no longer about sport, it’s just about rumors.”

Schroecksnadel challenged the authorities behind the investigation to justify their methods, suggesting that they returned to the Austrians’ living quarters only because the first sweep had not yielded any evidence of doping.

”Why are the results not here from the guys who were tested?” he said. ”They find nothing, this is why they’re still breaking into the apartments, because they haven’t found anything. They keep coming back. I don’t agree with the way they’re doing things with this, even if it is the state.”

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the IOC was waiting for information from Italian authorities on the results of the investigation and was not alarmed by the police’s return to Austrian housing.

”I find it logical for the police authorities to look for possible illegal material or drugs in another private accommodation of the Austrian team,” he said.

The investigation was touched off when World Anti-Doping Agency officers learned that Mayer, banned from the Olympics for links to blood doping in 2002 in Salt Lake City, was with the Austrian team at the Torino Games. WADA told the IOC of Mayer’s presence, which in turn tipped off Italian police.

The night after the raids, authorities said Mayer crashed his car into a police blockade 15 miles inside Austria’s border with Italy, some 250 miles from Torino.

Schroecksnadel said police took him to a psychiatric facility, where he was staying because it was feared he might commit suicide.

Mayer appeared in an Austrian court Tuesday to face charges related to his bizarre flight from the Winter Games. He pleaded guilty to charges of civil disorder, assault and damage to property, court spokesman Norbert Jenny told The Associated Press.

Italian authorities said they were investigating Mayer for a possible violation of Italy’s stringent anti-doping laws, but were not seeking his arrest.

Austrian ski officials said they have severed ties with Mayer. Though he had been in Italy coaching the team in a private capacity, IOC medical commission chief Arne Ljungqvist said his presence – while not breaking any rules – had violated the ”spirit” of his Olympic ban.

Saturday’s raids, the first ever by police on athletes at the Olympics, came against the backdrop of the most stringent drug controls in Winter Games history.

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