Cross-country skiers suspended

By wire services
Published February 10, 2006

TURIN, Italy - Eight Olympic cross-country skiers, including two Americans and one former gold medalist, were suspended for five days after they were found to have excessive hemoglobin levels - the first hint of scandal at the Turin Games.

The suspensions, announced by the International Ski Federation, last five days from the day the tests were administered. The U.S. Ski Association said that the tests were taken Wednesday, meaning the athletes will be barred from competition until at least Monday.

That would keep the skiers out of the first cross-country events of the Olympics - the men's and women's pursuit on Sunday.

The suspended American athletes were Kikkan Randall, 23, of Anchorage, Ala., and Leif Zimmerman, 22, of Bozeman, Mont. The others were: Sean Crooks of Canada, Sergey Dolidovich of Belarus, Jean Marc Gaillard of France, Aleksandr Lasutkin of Belarus, Natalia Matveeva of Russia and Evi Sachenbacher of Germany, who won gold in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games in the women's relay.

DOPING ARBITRATION: U.S. skeleton racer Zach Lund spent more than three hours in a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, pleading his case to race in the Turin Games.

Last week, the World Anti-Doping Agency filed an appeal with the CAS over Lund's Olympic eligibility. He was publicly warned but not suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Jan. 23 after testing positive for finasteride, an ingredient in a hair-restoration product that also can be used as a steroid-masking agent.

Lund attended the hearing at a Turin hotel with his attorney, Howard Jacobs, who declined comment afterward. U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said a final ruling by the CAS on Lund is expected today.

DODGING DRUG DETECTION: NHL players taking part in the Olympics might get away with using banned drugs, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said.

A day before the Opening Ceremony, Dick Pound, president of the Montreal-based umbrella organization, said that hockey players in the Olympic tournament have enough time to dodge drug detection because the NHL's testing program is "practically nothing." Most Olympic rosters were announced in late December.

NHL spokesman Frank Brown didn't immediately return an e-mail or messages.

PROTESTS DIVERT FLAME: The Olympic torch was diverted on its first day through Turin's streets because authorities feared protests along the route could turn violent. Police recommended a new route for the torch for the third time in a week to avoid a demonstration in a square near Turin's central station.

"There was no longer a guarantee that it would be a party, as it should be," said Roberto Pagliuca, who is overseeing the relay.

MEN'S DOWNHILL PRACTICE: Daron Rahlvese upstaged U.S. ski teammate Bode Miller to win the first training run for the men's downhill at the Winter Olympics. Rahlves was clocked in 1 minute, 49.46 seconds on the course in the resort of Sestriere, more than a second faster than Austrian Michael Walchhofer. Miller, last year's overall World Cup champion, finished 16th.

"I had a huge smile on my face going down, from the top to the bottom," said Rahlves.

Miller had a time of 1:52.21. Two-time gold medalist Hermann Maier was third and Austrian teammate Fritz Strobl, the defending champion, was seventh.

Meanwhile, one of the two most famous members of the U.S. ski team publicly rebuked the other, when Jeremy Bloom said Miller "crossed the line" in a 60 Minutes interview in which Miller told stories of skiing drunk and said the risk of serious injury would not deter him from doing so again.

Said Bloom, a freestyler specializing in moguls: "I think he really crossed the line when he talked about driving and skiing. He has a lot of kids that look up to him. Sending that type of message is completely wrong."

Miller later apologized for his comments.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: It took 82 years, but four Scotsmen who won the curling competition at the inaugural Winter Olympics finally are being recognized as gold medalists.

The team - father and son Willie and Laurence Jackson, Robin Welsh and Tom Murray - took the top prize in what was considered a demonstration sport in the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France.

The team defeated Sweden and France in outdoor matches.

The International Olympic Committee declared that the curling competition was an official event, making the four Scotsmen the first-ever British gold medalists.