Austrian winter Olympians receive life bans from IOC

AFP , BEIJING

Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 22

Six Austrian athletes caught doping at last year's Turin Winter Olympics were banned for life on Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

"The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee today unanimously decided to declare permanently ineligible six athletes from the Austrian biathlon and cross country teams who competed in the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games," an IOC statement said.

The athletes were caught in possession of drug paraphernalia as well as actual performance enhancing drugs, Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC's disciplinary commission, told a press conference in Beijing.

Two biathletes -- Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann -- as well as cross country skiers Roland Diethart, Johannes Eder, Juergen Pinter and Martin Tauber received the bans.

"The IOC, I think, has taken an important step in the fight against doping," Bach said.

Tauber denied any wrondoing.

"I haven't done anything illegal," he claimed.

"They found an instrument to measure hemaglobin levels at my lodgings in Pragelato which I used to keep a check on my levels which naturally can be too high," Tauber said. "But nowhere is it written that it's illegal to have possession of such a device."

He added: "My reputation has been damaged and whatever happens I will be looking at challenging this decision through the courts as far as my financial means permit."