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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 10:48 GMT
IOC denies Austria ban decision
An Austrian biathlon team photo given to the media in Turin, with Mayer included top right.
Mayer was pictured (top right) in an official Turin 2006 team photo
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has denied voting against imposing a Games ban on Austria.

Top Austrian official Heinz Jungwirth said the option of a ban was considered but rejected after raids uncovered doping equipment at Austrian bases.

But the Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed IOC official saying there had been "no vote and no decision".

Ten Austrian athletes were drug tested following the raids, sparked by the presence of banned coach Walter Mayer.

The results of the tests are likely to be known before the end of the Games on Sunday.

Jungwirth said: "There was a vote in the IOC's executive committee on whether we should be expelled. Thank God there are still people that would not cheer were Austria suddenly to be missing."

But the IOC said it was baffled by Jungwirth's comments.

"There certainly was no vote and no decision regarding a ban of the Austrian Olympic Committee," the IOC official said.

There's a storm brewing at the IOC - whether the doping tests are positive or negative doesn't matter
Austria's Olympic boss Heinz Jungwirth

The Austrians could still be sanctioned even if none of their athletes actually test positive.

"To find somebody guilty of doping you don't necessarily need urine and blood samples," said IOC president Jacques Rogge. "It can also be based on circumstantial evidence."

Italian prosecutor Ciro Santoriello said there was no doubt the IOC will be able to act.

"Part of the testimony we already have confirms that the IOC can take sanctions against the athletes," Santoriello told French sports daily L'Equipe.

"But as the investigation is still ongoing we have not yet been able to hand over the evidence to the IOC."

The IOC investigation will also look at Austria's decision to ignore the ban imposed on biathlon coach Mayer.

Mayer, 48, was banned from the 2006 and 2010 Games for doping offences at the 2002 event in Salt Lake City.

Austrian Olympic chiefs have launched their own investigation alongside that of the IOC to fend off the possibility of a ban.

"We want to avoid that. The damage of a ban would be impossible to make good again," Jungwirth, Austria's Olympic boss, told the news agency APA.

"There's a storm brewing at the IOC. Whether the doping tests are positive or negative doesn't matter.

"There was equipment found that was clearly not allowed, including equipment for blood transfusions.

The affair around Mayer and some participants is difficult and bitter
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel
"The investigation is a first step, we have to start somewhere and find out who's been telling the truth, who has lied, who has done what.

"It's possible that if Austria is seen to be unwilling to investigate doping cases then they'll punish the Austrian Olympic Committee."

Chancellor Schuessel supported the Austrian investigation, stressing that there should be zero tolerance for doping.

"The affair around the coach Walter Mayer and some participants is difficult and bitter. I think they have behaved really irresponsibly," he said.

"It's important that we are making our own contribution, an honest contribution that can be taken seriously, to clarify the facts, and that we are sending the clear message - he who dopes, gets the push."

Earlier, Jungwirth revealed that coach Emil Hoch, who disappeared shortly after the raids, would be banned from future Olympics.

Austrian Ski Federation president Peter Shroecksnadel, who met an Italian prosecutor on Thursday, has admitted that the two athletes who left the Games after the raids, Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottman, had confessed they "may have used illegal methods".

I wanted to kill myself because my world had fallen apart
Walter Mayer
Mayer had been an official team coach and appeared on an Olympic postcard issued by the Austrians. He was, however, never accredited for the Games.

The first police raid came on Saturday when police were tipped off by the World Anti-Doping Agency that Mayer was with the team. The second raid took place on Monday night.

Mayer, who has been treated in a psychiatric hospital, has since admitted he tried to commit suicide by crashing his car into a police road block in southern Austria.

"I wanted to kill myself because my world had fallen apart," he told an Austrian magazine. "I was shattered. I couldn't think clearly."

The incident occurred on Sunday after police woke Mayer while he was sleeping in his car in the Austrian village of Paternion.

He sped off and was pursued before crashing into two unoccupied police vehicles, damaging the cars and slightly injuring a policeman.

Mayer was in court in Klagenfurt on Tuesday to plead guilty to charges of civil disorder, assault and damage to property.

However, he says his visit to Turin was for personal reasons and had nothing to do with doping.

Austrian Olympic chiefs sacked Mayer after hearing about his arrest but they could not stop the scandal from spreading.


Austrian anger over drugs raids
19 Feb 06 |  Winter Olympics

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