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Chase, crash part of raid on ski teams

Published Feb. 22, 2006

Athletes on Austria's Olympic team met with a coach who is banned for a past doping case, sparking police raids on the squad's housing.

The Austrian Olympic Committee is investigating which athletes met with Walter Mayer, the coach barred from the Winter Games this year and in 2010, and what might have been discussed, spokesman Raimund Fabi said.

Mayer later led police on a chase 250 miles from the Olympic host city, eventually ramming the side of a police car being used as a roadblock.

In the first ever doping raid by police on Olympic athletes, Italian authorities said they seized materials in a search through the rented living quarters of the Austrian biathlon and cross-country teams. Six skiers and four biathletes were rousted and taken for drug tests by the International Olympic Committee, hours before some were to compete.

No one was arrested, and test results of seized materials were pending.

The involvement of police is in line with Italian law, which treats doping as a criminal offense.

The raids came late Saturday when police swarmed homes rented by the athletes near San Sicario and Pragelato. The athletes were taken by IOC doping control officers to Sestriere for tests.

The Italian national news agency ANSA reported that a panicked Austrian athlete threw a bag out of a window containing needles, medicines and other substances. In addition, police found syringes for intravenous injections, vials of distilled water, asthma medication and other products, ANSA said.

Austrian biathlon coach Alfred Eder confirmed that Mayer spent one night in the athletes' accommodations.

Mayer was sanctioned in 2002 after a housekeeper found blood transfusion materials in a house used by the Austrians at the Salt Lake City Games.

Later Sunday, Mayer was involved in a chase near the town of Paternion, about 15 miles from the Italian border. The incident began when Mayer pulled to the side of the road and took a nap in his car. A suspicious resident alerted police, and when officers arrived to wake him up, Mayer sped away, striking and slightly injuring an officer.

The officers called for backup, and authorities parked an empty police vehicle across the highway as a roadblock. Mayer slammed into the squad car, totaling both vehicles. He was slightly injured and refused to take a blood-alcohol test.

"Yes, some athletes from the cross-country and biathlon teams did meet him," Fabi said. "We are trying to find out exactly which ones and why."

Austria complained to the IOC about the raids, which occurred hours before Sunday's 40-kilometer cross-country relay. The Austrian team was the only one that didn't finish the race.