U.S. loses seat on IOC board

By wire services
Published February 11, 2006

TURIN, Italy - The United States was left without a voice on the Olympics' most influential body Friday when Jim Easton lost his seat on the IOC executive board.

Easton, an outgoing IOC vice president, was defeated 57-36 by South Africa's Sam Ramsamy in the final round of a secret ballot.

Another American, Anita DeFrantz , withdrew earlier as a candidate to give Easton a better chance of retaining a spot on the policymaking body.

Easton himself earlier pulled out of the running for the IOC vice presidency to contest the regular seat on the 15-member board.

MORE SKIERS SUSPENDED: The number of cross-country skiers suspended at the Turin Olympics climbed to 12, with the athletes explaining their abnormally high hemoglobin levels were caused by dehydration and adjusting to high altitude - not blood doping.

Four more skiers received five-day competition bans, joining eight who were suspended Thursday. While some will miss the men's and women's pursuit event on Sunday, all will serve their suspensions in time to be cleared for possible competition.

The International Ski Federation suspended Alen Abramovic of Croatia, Russians Pavel Korosteljev and Nikolai Pankratov , and Robel Teklemariam of Ethiopia.

GAMES HAVE BEEN BLESSED: Pope Benedict XVI told Turin's cardinal in a message that he will keep the athletes and spectators at the Winter Games in his prayers.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the message was sent in late November to Cardinal Severino Poletto .

In the letter, Benedict noted that peace has been associated with the Olympic Games since ancient times, and he assured athletes and spectators of his "remembrance in prayer."

CASE WON'T ICE COACH: A court case against a figure skating coach accused of having ties to the former East German secret police won't keep him from this weekend's Olympics pairs competition.

A trial date for Ingo Steuer is expected to be set next week, a Berlin court said. Steuer coaches skaters Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy , runnersup at the European Championships.

FIRST LADY ARRIVES: First lady Laura Bush arrived at the Turin Olympics with a rooting interest.

She led the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremony and was looking forward to watching fellow Texan Chad Hedrick in speed-skating competition.