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31 European athletes accused of doping

Latest update : 2008-02-16

The athletes, including former Olympic skiing Austrian champion Stefan Eberharter, were accused of blood-doping by an anonymous source in the Austrian daily paper Osterreich.

Former Olympic skiing champion Stefan Eberharter and the German biathlon team have protested their innocence after an anonymous source accused them of blood-doping, daily newspaper Osterreich reported on Saturday.

"This is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard," said 38-year-old Eberharter, who won the giant slalom in Salt Lake City in 2002 and accrued three other medals in the two Olympics he competed in.

A total of 31 athletes, both Austrian and foreign, are implicated by the newspaper and a portion of those have been named, including German biathlete Uschi Disl, Olympic champion in the relay in both 1998 and 2002.

An anonymous tip, sent by email to Innsbruck newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung and to a freelance journalist, claims that Vienna laboratory Humanplasma, suspected by the World Anti-Doping Association of being at the centre of a doping network, is indeed involved in blood-doping practices.

However the laboratory has categorically denied the accusations, which appeared for the first time in 2007, and sued for defamation.

The anonymous email also accuses the German biathlon team. Apart from Disl, the names of three of the four members of the winning relay team in Salt Lake City appear, including Andrea Henkel, a double world champion at the ongoing world champions at Ostersund, Sweden.

Also cited are the four members of Germany's men's winning team at the Turin Olympics in 2006, including Michael Greis, a triple 2006 Olympic champion and Sven Fischer, a top German biathlete before retiring last season.

However the German skiing federation (DSV) on Saturday closed ranks with their champions.

DSV spokesman Stefan Schwarzbach said: "We say again this is false and we are 100 percent behind (our athletes). Our athletes three weeks ago signed a declaration with our lawyers in which they claim they have never had any link with this laboratory. We have also launched legal proceedings."

Also on the list are last year's yellow jersey wearer in the Tour de France, Michael Rasmussen of Denmark - who was ejected from the race after his team Rabobank discovered he had lied to them about his whereabouts prior to the Tour - plus other cyclists Denis Mentchov of Russia, who won last year's Tour of Spain, and his now retired teammate Michael Boogerd of the Netherlands.

Following the anonymous tip, Vienna prosecutors have opened an inquiry for embezzlement of social security services.

The athletes, with prescriptions from three doctors, got reimbursed by social security for the preparation and refrigerated storage of samples of their own blood, which was then injected back into their bodies before competitions.

Date created : 2008-02-16