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IOC: Austrian doping probe not over

The Austrians' drug tests were negative. The doping probe is just beginning.

Austria's biathlon and cross-country teams may have thought they were off the hook when all 10 doping samples from last weekend's late-night raids came back Friday showing no evidence of banned substances.

But the International Olympic Committee made clear the case is far from closed, saying it will press ahead with a far-reaching probe based on evidence seized by police under Italy's strict anti-doping laws.

The IOC said the test results on the six cross-country skiers and four biathletes were "only one element in what is undoubtedly an affair which goes far wider."

The IOC sent a letter Friday to Raffaele Guariniello, Italy's top anti-doping prosecutor, asking him to pass on the information gathered in the criminal probe. Then it will begin disciplinary hearings into the Austrian case, a process that could stretch for months after the Turin Games.

Athletes could be disqualified retroactively and have their Olympic results annulled. Team officials and coaches also could be sanctioned.

"We wish to avoid the image of conducting some sort of witch hunt here, but we have reason to follow up a certain number of cases," IOC medical chief Arne Ljungqvist said.

MIXED RESULTS FOR AMERICANS: The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee gave Americans a B-plus in performance through Friday. "There are a couple areas where we thought we'd perform better but we didn't," Jim Scherr said. "We just have to go back and work a little harder for Vancouver." Scherr defended Lindsey Jacobellis, whose hot dog move at the end of snowboardcross cost her a gold medal.

ATHLETE'S GRANDFATHER DIES: The grandfather of U.S. short-track skater Kimberly Derrick died of an apparent heart attack Friday night while in Turin to watch her compete in her first Olympics. It was not immediately known if Derrick would compete in her lone individual event, tonight's 1,000 meters. Darrel Edwards, 74, traveled from Memphis to cheer on his granddaughter, a sophomore at Northern Michigan University.

INJURY NEWS: American skeleton athlete Kevin Ellis had surgery to repair a vertebra in the middle of his back. Ellis, 32, fractured and dislocated the vertebra in a recreational sled race Thursday. A full recovery is expected. Swedish skier Anja Paerson likely will require knee surgery, said her father and coach, Anders Paerson. She was sixth in Friday's giant slalom.

COHEN TO COMPETE NEXT MONTH: Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen plans to skate in next month's World Championships, along with U.S. teammates Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes. Cohen will face Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan on March 20-26 in Calgary. Cohen has not committed to competition beyond Calgary. Meissner and Hughes plan to remain eligible.

CLOSING CEREMONY: Speed-skater Joey Cheek was elected by the U.S. team to carry the American flag Sunday night. Cheek won gold in the 500 meters and silver in the 1,000. Canadian singer Avril Lavigne will perform in an eight-minute production designed to celebrate Canada and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Other performers include opera singer Andrea Bocelli and singer Ricky Martin.

- TIMES WIRES

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