KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr was kicked out of the Sochi Games on Sunday after testing positive for EPO. It is the fifth doping case – and most serious so far – at the Olympics.
“It is a black day for us,” Austrian Olympic Committee President Karl Stoss said at a news conference on the final day of the games.
Duerr finished eighth in the men’s skiathlon on Feb. 9 and was tested seven days later in Austria, where he had flown back for training. He returned to Sochi and had been due to compete in the 50-kilometer mass start Sunday, the final cross-country event.
“We are shocked by this announcement and took the appropriate measures right away,” Stoss said in a statement. “We’ve told the athlete and informed him about his rights, his accreditation has been pulled and he has been excluded from the Olympic team with immediate effect. Duerr is already on his way home.”
EPO is used to boost red blood cells that carry oxygen to the muscles, increasing stamina and endurance. The four other cases involved minor stimulants that can be found in food supplements.
None of the five athletes won medals in Sochi. The other four were: Latvian hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs, Ukrainian cross-country skier Marina Lisogor, German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Italian bobsledder William Frullani.
The Austrian cross-country and biathlon teams were at the center of a major doping scandal at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Italian police, acting on a tip, raided the team lodgings and seized blood doping equipment and other substances.
No Austrians tested positive at those games, but several were later banned for life by the International Olympic Committee.
The 26-year-old Duerr was considered a rising hope for Austria following the Turin scandal.
“We applied all the measures needed and it’s a great pity that after all successful participations of the Austrian team we have had this case of doping,” Stoss said of the team’s response to Turin. “We will do everything that is needed of us to prevent this in future but of course we can’t say there will not be one.”
The EPO test comes after an Olympics in which the Austrians won 17 medals going into the final day.
“This was really good work made by our team,” Stoss said. “The athlete himself confessed that he is the only one who did that and he takes all the responsibility on himself.”
The IOC is conducting 2,453 drug tests in Sochi, a record for the Winter Games. The Olympic body also stores doping samples for 10 years to allow for retesting when new methods become available.
There was only one positive test at the previous Winter Olympics four years ago in Vancouver. IOC President Thomas Bach said the beefed-up testing is working and catching violators.
“For me it was never a question of the numbers and how many,” Bach said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday. “I think it shows we are on the right track.”
Earlier, Pavlovs tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine following Latvia’s loss to Canada in the quarterfinals Thursday.
Lisogor tested positive for trimetazidine on Tuesday after the women’s team sprint. She said she had been taking medication for a thyroid condition but “forgot to declare” the drug on her doping form.
Sachenbacher-Stehle, a former two-time Olympic gold medalist, tested positive for methylhexanamine. She blamed a nutritional supplement and said she had never knowingly taken performance enhancers.
Frullani tested positive for dimetylpentylamine. The Italian Olympic Committee told the AP it believed Frullani, a former decathlete, bought the stimulant on the Internet from the United States since it is not available in Italy.
AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar, Stephen Wilson and Chris Lehourites contributed to this report.