Austrians Investigated in Doping Probe
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
There is an investigation into possible doping by members of the Austrian men's cross-country and biathlon teams at the Winter Olympics. Over the weekend, Italian police raided the team's living quarters and reported confiscated medical equipment, including syringes. In a twist last night, the former Nordic coach at the center of the investigation was involved in a police chase in southern Austria. Joining us now from Turin is NPR's Tom Goldman, and Tom, catch us up on what happened over the weekend. A little excitement there.
TOM GOLDMAN reporting:
Certainly was, Renee. It started when the World Anti-Doping Agency discovered that Walter Mayer, the coach you mentioned, was with the Austrian team at the Turin Games. Mayer is currently banned by the International Olympic Committee for his alleged involvement in past doping cases.
So, the Anti-Doping Agency alerted the International Olympic Committee, the IOC told the Italian police. The police raided the Austrian Nordic team quarters on Saturday night, and according to the Italian news agency, ANSA, police confiscated blood analysis equipment. Syringes, as you say. Reports also that there was an Austrian athlete who threw equipment out of a window when police arrived late Saturday night. And, at the same time, the IOC conducted drug tests on ten athletes. Four of those athletes competed in a cross-country relay race the next day, and finished dead last.
MONTAGNE: Well, let's talk a moment about last night's chase, but before we do, tell us a little more about Walter Mayer.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, he's the Austrian men's cross-country and biathlon coach-- former, we should say. Back in 2002, the IOC banned him from these Olympics and the 2010 Winter Games after a doping scandal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. Mayer was alleged to have performed blood transfusions on Austrian Nordic athletes. Now, his being at the Games here didn't violate the ban which said that he couldn't be officially accredited, and that he couldn't coach.
The ban didn't prevent him from, say, being in Italy as a spectator. But, the fact that he was hanging out with his former athletes raised concern, and one IOC official said it violated the spirit of the 2002 suspension. Some on the Austrian team said his presence was harmless, saying he was just visiting the boys.
The IOC points to a 2006 Austrian biathlon team postcard, that's the current team, that includes Mayer in the picture, and an IOC official waved the postcard at a press conference yesterday as dramatic proof; proof of something fishy going on.
MONTAGNE: So, Walter Mayer was taken into custody by Austrian police last night and then what happened?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's the weird part of the story. He reportedly had driven back from Italy, and had pulled over on the side of the road to nap. Police were alerted. They came to wake him up. He sped away and crashed his car into a police vehicle that was parked in the middle of the road as a barrier. He reportedly refused to take a breathalyzer test. Police thought he was drunk. They took him into custody.
This brings up yet another motorized vehicle doping-related incident. Listeners maybe remember the alleged motorcycle crash at the 2004 Athens Games, involving the two Greek sprint stars who were banned from those Games for missing doping tests. So, it's doping and car/motorcycle chases, Renee. You can't make this stuff up.
MONTAGNE: Well, given all of this activity, do we know if anyone is guilty of anything?
GOLDMAN: Today it's reported that Mayer has been charged with civil disorder, and released from police detention in southern Austria. The IOC says test results on the ten Austrian Nordic athletes should be known in the next couple of days. Italian authorities are investigating the situation with Mayer, and they're trying to figure out if the supplies they confiscated Saturday were related to doping. Italian prosecutions move slowly, so even though this is getting a lot of attention, we may not learn much soon. But, it's important to say, at this point, no arrests or punishment of athletes have happened.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Renee.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Tom Goldman in Turin.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.