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Embattled Austrian ski coach is in a psychiatric hospital

An Austrian ski coach who bolted the Games after a surprise anti-doping raid wound up in a psychiatric hospital - the latest stop on his bizarre flight from Turin, Italy, where authorities were still analyzing 100 syringes and other material seized from athletes' housing.

Authorities took Walter Mayer into custody Sunday after he crashed his car into a police blockade 15 miles inside Austria's border with Italy. Police later took him to a psychiatric facility, Austria ski federation president Peter Schroecksnadel said.

"Apparently he's still in there," Schroecksnadel said Monday. "I believe that there was a danger of suicide - they had to take him to the hospital."

Mayer was banished from the Olympics over allegations of blood doping at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. He resurfaced with the team in Turin, triggering police raids late Saturday - the first-ever doping sweep by police on athletes competing at the Games.

Against the backdrop of the most stringent drug controls in Winter Games history, Turin authorities seized the syringes and 30 packages of antidepressants and asthma medication. One Austrian athlete threw a bag out of a window containing needles and medicines, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"The question is not the number of syringes but what was in them," Schroecksnadel said, suggesting that they could be used to inject vitamins. "The point is not the number of needles."

In another doping incident, biathlon's governing body is looking into the disappearance of documents that purportedly detail Russian Olga Pyleva's positive test for a stimulant taken last month. It's not known if the papers were stolen or simply misplaced. She lost a silver medal when she was expelled from the Games.

ESCHE TO START FOR U.S.: American men's hockey coach Peter Laviolette told Robert Esche he would start tonight's game against Russia.

"I didn't expect it," the Philadelphia Flyers goalie said. "It does mean a lot to me to play. There are a lot of North Americans who get into this and guys over here understand that. I don't want to say I get into it more than anybody else, but I do have more of a European attitude on this. Everybody wants to play on the world stage."

The real reason Esche is starting? Team USA plays at 8:30 tonight (Turin time) and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Finland in the quarterfinals, the beginning of the single-elimination medal round. Laviolette will want New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro fully rested.

EXPENSIVE DIGIT: France's Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin was fined $3,800 for raising his middle finger after he failed to complete the super-G slalom Saturday. The 28-year-old made the gesture in the finish area after missing a gate near the end of the course. He said he was upset because his leading time after 17 skiers was wiped out when the race was restarted because of poor visibility.

- TIMES WIRES

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