Updated: Sunday, 23 February 2014 15:37 | By Agence France-Presse

Top Austrian skier tests positive for EPO in fifth doping case

A leading Austrian cross country skier has been thrown out of the Sochi Olympics after testing positive for EPO, in the fifth doping case to hit these Winter Games, organisers and the Austrian team said Sunday.


Top Austrian skier tests positive for EPO in fifth doping case

Austria's Johannes Duerr (3rd L) competes in the Men's Cross-Country Skiing 15km + 15km Skiathlon at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 9, 2014, in Rosa Khutor - by Alberto Pizzoli

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.

However Duerr is the first case where an athlete has tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a blood booster which became particularly notorious for its use amongst cyclists.

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 statement on the Sochi organisers' official news service.

-Claims to have 'acted alone'-

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.

This is not the first time the shadow of doping has been cast over an Austrian team at a Winter Olympics.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics Italian police raided the living quarters of Austrian athletes, seizing incriminating evidence of blood doping.

Four cross country skiers and two biathletes were banned for life from their sports.

Only one positive doping test was recorded during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, after seven apiece in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee said cross country skier Marina Lisogor had tested positive and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later revealed 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.

The case of Sachenbacher-Stehle, 33, who won two golds at previous Olympics, has shocked German sport. She insists she consumed the banned stimulant methylhexanamin accidentally in a dietary supplement.

The IOC, which oversees drug testing at the Olympic Games, is carrying out almost 2,500 drug tests at Sochi 2014. 

It has warned athletes it is carrying out focused out of competition tests of suspect athletes, sometimes based on intelligence material.

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