Top Austrian nordic skier tests positive for EPO

AFP| Updated: Feb 23, 2014, 15:52 PM IST

Sochi: A leading Austrian cross country skier has tested positive for the banned substance Erythropoietin (EPO) and has been thrown out of the final nordic race at the Sochi Olympics, organisers said Sunday.

Johannes Duerr, who had been due to take part in the men`s 50km Sunday on the final day of the Games, tested positive for EPO in a pre-competition test in Austria on February 16, organisers said in a statement.

Duerr is the fifth athlete to be excluded over a positive doping test from the Sochi Games, where the International Olympic Committee is carrying out more tests than ever with a new emphasis on pre-competition tests.

The Austrian took part on February 9 in the first cross country event of Sochi 2014, the skiathlon, finishing eighth.

But he tested positive for EPO a week later in a pre-competition doping control in Obertilliach, Austria, on February 16.

Between the skiathlon and his planned start in the 50km, he had entered no more races in the Games.

"The IOC disciplinary commission decided on 22 February, 2014 that Johannes Duerr is suspended from competing in the men`s 50km mass start," said the the statement on the Sochi organisers` official news service.

The Austrian National Olympic Committee confirmed the positive test.

"We are shocked by this news and have immediately taken the corresponding measures," said Karl Stoss, president of the Austrian National Olympic Committee.

He said that Duerr had confessed to his actions and emphasised that he had acted alone and no other athlete had been involved.

Duerr had enjoyed a strong season up until now, winning a World Cup race in Val di Fiemme and coming third in the prestigious Tour de Ski.

He would have been considered a possible medal chance in the mens` 50km, a blue riband event which is the traditional curtain closer for nordic skiing at the Olympics.

On Saturday, The Ukrainian Olympic Committee said cross country skier Marina Lisogor had tested positive and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later said it had sanctioned Latvian men`s ice hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs.

German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Italian bobsledder William Frullani also failed tests earlier in the week.

However the case of Duerr is the first time an athlete has tested positive for the performance enhancing substance EPO, a blood booster which became particularly notorious for its use amongst cyclists.