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Forty-five days after getting caught for using the blood-doping drug erythropoetin (EPO), Austria’s Johannes Dürr is even further in the doghouse with a sanction handed down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday.

According to an IOC press release, the 27-year-old Dürr tested positive for the banned substance in an out-of-competition test and was reprimanded on Feb. 22, the day before the final 50-kilometer mass start and closing ceremony at the Olympics. He was tested while training in Austria on Feb. 9.

The decision states that Dürr did not request the analysis of his “B” sample and waived his right to appear at a hearing. Based on the positive “A” sample and his statements to the press where he admitted to using EPO, the three-person panel sanctioned him, removing his eighth-place result in the Olympic skiathlon and revoking his diploma for Olympic participation.

On Feb. 22, Dürr was stripped of his accreditation and sent home on the first flight out of Sochi, Russia. At the airport on Feb. 23, he told the Associated Press, “So many people have been doing all they could to help me and now I’ve disappointed them with my silliness. I am not afraid. I am in a way glad it has come to an end … This is the worst thing I’ve done in my life.”

In addition to being disqualified from the 30 k skiathlon, Dürr was altogether excluded as a competitor at the 2014 Sochi Games, his first Olympics.

He was one of seven Olympians who tested positive in Sochi. Another was German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine a few days earlier.

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Brian Gregg gives a thumbs up during a trip to the White House on April 3 to meet the President and First Lady. (Photo: Augusto Goose Perez/Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/brianjgregg?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

Brian Gregg gives a thumbs up during a trip to the White House on April 3 to meet the President and First Lady. (Photo: Augusto Goose Perez/Facebook)

Another perk about being an Olympian? A trip to D.C. to meet the President at his place.

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House to congratulate them on their performances and thank them for representing the U.S. in Sochi, Russia.

Brian Gregg was one of several first-time Olympians from the several-hundred strong delegation that attended the formal event, and recapped the experience in an email to FasterSkier:

“Visiting Washington, DC was a great experience to share with Team USA. An opportunity to connect with my Olympic teammates in a relaxed environment.  It was fun to connect with athletes from other sports.  Sharing a private car from the airport with Gold Medalist Maddie Bowman, eating breakfast with the silver medalist bobsled team, going to dinner with the Speedskaters.  The highlight of the trip easily being meeting President Obama and the first lady. First of all we toured the white house and the grounds.  Waiting excitedly as we had before the opening ceremonies as well.  We all shook hands with the president and hugged Michelle with some time for a few words.

I asked if he had ever cross country skied. He hadn’t but said he was up for trying it. I said I would take him out if he was ever in Minneapolis. He liked that but reminded me that Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybek had a heart attack cross country skiing at Wirth Park this winter.  I said yeah but he is okay and in the same tweet announcing the heart attack also complimented the excellent ski conditions for the day.  I thanked Michelle for her efforts in encouraging a healthy lifestyle with today’s youth and my passion for that as well.

After the white house visit the USA ran an Olympic Summit on the transition from ones athletic career to their professional career.  The white house visit had maybe 200 Olympian and paralympians. To my surprise the symposium had less than 50 participants.  I found the summit to be extremely educational and beneficial with very little fluff.  The small size made for a really personal experience.  Panel discussions included the former CEO of Charles Schwab, Olympic Medalists from many different years and first hand advice on the keys to their success and the mistakes they had made and corrected.  I plan to race another Quad for sure but at some point all athletes will retire from sport and it is important to be prepared for that transition.

A fun cap to the event included a private screening of Captain America in a theater in Georgetown.”

U.S. Paralympics Nordic Director John Farra (back center) with some of his 2014 Paralympians at the White House visit, including Kevin Burton (l), Augusto "Goose" Perez (front), and Omar Bermejo (r). (Photo: John Farra/Twitter)

U.S. Paralympics Nordic Director John Farra (back center) with some of his 2014 Paralympians at the White House visit, including Kevin Burton (l), Augusto “Goose” Perez (front), and Omar Bermejo (r). (Photo: John Farra/Twitter)

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The World Military Championships (CISM) are happening this week in Sodankyla, Finland, and many top skiers and biathletes will represent their countries now that the World Cup season is over. In much of Europe, elite athletes are supported by military or police forces and owe some amount of work to the force, as well as representing them at the Championships.

Norwegian biathlete Lars Berger, who finished off the season with a top-ten sprint result in Oslo, topped the men’s 15 k freestyle cross country field by two seconds over Jiri Magal of the Czech Republic. Robin Duvillard of France was third.

Berger, a 2007 World Champion in the cross country skiing 15 k, may do more ski races next season – along with French biathlon star Martin Fourcade, who said that skiing will be his main focus next year. Although Fourcade is in Finland for the championships, though, he is only competing in the biathlon races.

In the women’s 10 k competition, Germany and France dominated. Denise Herrman took a big 24-second win over teammate Stefanie Boehler; France swept the next three spots with Coraline Hugue, Anouk Faivre Picon, and Celia Aymonier. Maria Gräfnings of Sweden, a University of Utah graduate, placed seventh.

Racing continues tomorrow with biathlon sprints.

Results: men / women

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This week, Deadspin wrote an article about husband-and-wife team Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone, and their road to the Olympics. Morrone, 48, and di Silvestri, 47, competed in the Sochi Olympics under the banner of the Carribbean nation of Dominica. They came as skiers, the sole delegates – and, indeed, the first-ever delegates – to the winter Olympics from Dominica. XC Oregon elite team coach JD Downing accompanied them at the Games as their coach.

Di Silvestri and Morrone live in the United States, and are U.S. and Italian citizens, but received citizenship to Dominica reportedly as a gift for charitable work the couple did in the country. What work they did is not clear, but Deadspin is not shy about insinuating that the pair likely purchased “economic citizenship” for $175,000, plus a few thousand more in associated fees.

Deadspin pulls no punches in characterizing Morrone and di Silvestri as petty, vain, and wildly-wealthy yet morally bankrupt characters. It devotes multiple paragraphs to a scandal from the mid-1990′s involving Morrone’s role as a marketer for the car company Fiat in bribing, ironically, International Olympic Committee members to pick the Italian town of Sestriere for the 1997 World Ski Championships. Deadspin also devotes an entire article to their pre-Olympic pasts as tax-dodgers.

But FasterSkier is a ski website – so how about their results?

Both had to successfully qualify for the Olympics. Morrone’s biography on the FIS website shows that she finished all of her 14 starts, with her best result being fourth-from-last. Di Silvestri’s biography on the FIS website that out of nine starts he failed to finish two, was last place in five, second-to-last once, and fifth-from-last once, setting the couple’s high-water mark in their professional ski careers.

The Olympics did not go well for Morrone and di Silvestri. Morrone broke her nose – badly – in a crash during training on an icy portion of the course, ending her Olympic Games before they started. She would’ve been the oldest Olympic cross-country skier of all time (by seven years) had she done the 10 k. Di Silvestri only made it 300 meters in his race before collapsing due to a severe infection with bacterial gastroenteritis, ostensibly from drinking the water in Sochi. Evidently, he hadn’t gotten the memo.

The article also followed up on di Silvestri’s athletic background, as he explained to NBC OlympicTalk.

He told NBC he ”was a two-time state wrestling champion” and that he “rowed for a national championship team at Georgetown.” Di Silvestri’s WordPress blog and LinkedIn pages state that he “earned … three New York Downstate Wrestling Championships while a student at Monsignor Farrell High School.”

Deadspin contacted Long Island wrestling aficionado Steve Meehan, “who has compiled a comprehensive history of the New York state championship meets from 1962 through last year [and] says his records show that di Silvestri ‘was never’ a state titlist. In fact, di Silvestri’s name doesn’t show up anywhere in Meehan’s database, which includes the top six finishers for every year in the last half-century.”

While di Silvestri, who attended a Catholic high school school, could have won a title at one of the tournaments between Catholic institutions, Meehan said, he wouldn’t actually be a state champion. There’s also no evidence that “downstate wrestling championships” exist anywhere, even outside New York.

According to a 2000 article in the Staten Island Advance, di Silvestri reportedly payed $100,000 for the naming rights to his high-school wrestling room, and when he was then inducted into Monsignor Farrell’s Hall of Fame, the article states he was a “Staten Island Advance All-Star” as a wrestler, not a city or state champion.

Di Silvestri also told NBC he “rowed for a national championship team” in college, which is reiterated by his LinkedIn resume, stating he “rowed for the national champion Hoya crew team.” Deadspin points out that “the NCAA holds a crew championship for women, but not for men.”  There is a “de facto national championship” in college boating for men, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association [IRA] Championship Regatta, which dates back to 19th-century races on the Hudson River.

Di Silvestri went to Georgetown in the late-’80s, and no boat from Georgetown won an IRA championship during the years he was enrolled there. Georgetown’s crew coach at the time, Whit Fosburgh told Deadspin di Silvestri tried out for a spot in his team’s top boats, and while he was a well-liked, hard worker, di Silvestri didn’t posses the talent to row in the big regattas.

“Gary wasn’t in the boats that medaled those years,” Fosburgh said, “so it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was on the medal stand, getting the medals around his neck. But working as hard as he did for as little success as he had, that made him very popular.”

The couple’s Olympic ski coach, Downing, 47, recently told The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., that he’s known the di Silvestris for eight years and questioned the validity of the reports claiming they scammed the Olympics.

“I don’t know everything about their lives, but I don’t know everything about all the athletes I’ve worked with,” Downing said Tuesday. “But I do know when it comes to their participation in the Olympics, their qualification, what actually happened at the Olympics, everything was done by the book, everything was done legitimately. And anybody who says otherwise is fabricating.”

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Justyna Kowalczyk, the Polish Olympian who notched her second gold and fifth medal at the recent Sochi Winter Games, announced via Facebook that she’s done for the season, citing her broken foot as the reason.

“Forgive me, Jusytna will not compete any more this season,” the post read, according to translation from TV2 and NRK. “The foot comes up, but she still needs a lot of painkillers to train and compete. It’s time to stop with all these chemicals. Winter time is over.”

Kowalczyk, 31, won the Olympic 10-kilometer classic individual start on Feb. 13, but did not finish the final race in Sochi — the 30 k freestyle — because of the pain in her foot. She had originally planned to race at the final World Cups in Drammen and Olso, Norway, and Falun, Sweden, in March. She has not announced when she intends to retire, although she expected 2014 would be her last Olympics.

 

— There’s nothing wrong with a little xenon, according to Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency (FMBA) Chief Vladmir Uiba.

“Xenon is not an illegal gas,” Uiba told Russian news agencies on Wednesday, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We have a principle not to use what is forbidden by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).”

Uiba went on the record to address Germany’s WDR television and other reports this month claiming “top Russian athletes have been using xenon to improve their performance at Olympic Games from Athens 2004 right up to the just completed Sochi 2014 Winter Games,” the AFP reported.

“It is possible that our sportsmen have been using xenon inhalators but there is nothing wrong with that,” Uiba said. “We use what is not illegal, is not destructive and does not have side effects.”

The act of inhaling xenon stimulates the production of Erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that produces red blood cells in the body. More red blood cells = a boost in performance.

While the injection of EPO is considered doping and banned by WADA, inhaling a gas that naturally stimulates its production isn’t illegal and “regarded by many experts as grey area,” according to the AFP.

 

— Anyone who’s everyone wanted to ask elite-international athletes questions will have the chance during the upcoming Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, from March 7-16, with several athletes available to chat on Google Hangouts.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced Thursday that it will host daily Google Hangouts with the select athletes that have opted to participate. Each day at 5 p.m. Moscow time, athletes will answer questions posted throughout the day. On-demand videos of the conversations will also be available.

The participating Paralympians for nordic are: Japan’s Kozo Kubo, a two-time Paralympic sit-ski biathlete who won gold and two silvers at last year’s World Championships; and two Norwegians: Mariann Marthinsen, both a Summer (swimming) and Winter Paralympian, and Nils-Erik Ulset, a four-time Paralympic standing skier with three golds and eight total medals.

Muffy Davis, a Paralympic cyclist, sit-skier and mountain climber, won four medals for the U.S. from 1998 to 2002, and three-time Paralympic alpine skier Eric Villalon, who racked up nine medals and five golds for Spain, will moderate the Hangouts.

The IPC also announced earlier this week that 30 of the world’s top winter athletes will record “exclusive behind the scenes video blogs” during the Sochi Paralympics. For more, follow the Paralympic Games on Twitter: @Paralympic.

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Norway’s TV2 is reporting that Austrian skier Johannes Duerr has tested positive for the blood-doping drug erythropoetin (EPO).

26-year-old Duerr was third in the Tour de Ski this winter. At the Olympics so far, he placed 8th in the 30 k skiathlon. He was planning to compete in today’s 50 k race but has been pulled.

After the 30 k, Duerr returned to Austria to train for the nearly two weeks before his next race. It was there, in Obertilliach, that he was tested on February 16.

“We are shocked by this message, have immediately taken appropriate measures,” Austrian Olympic Committee President Karl Stoss said in a statement posted on the OOC website. “The athlete was informed and advised of his rights, his accreditation was removed and the immediate exclusion from the Olympic team was completed. Dürr has already begun the journey home.”

Duerr spoke to the press at the airport on his way home from Sochi.

“So many people have been doing all they could to help me and now I’ve disappointed them with my silliness,” he told the Associated Press. “I am not afraid. I am in a way glad it has come to an end… This is the worst thing I’ve done in my life. This is very, very tough. You can’t explain this in three sentences.”

An updated start list from FIS notes, “removed DUERR Johannes (AUT) from Start List as implementation of IOC decision from 22 FEB 2014″.

“Doping is clearly not compatible with my ideological views on the sport,” Duerr wrote on his website (according to a translation), although the statement has now been deleted and his facebook fanpage closed. “So for me it’s clear, I will live my sport and to engage with passion and plenty of hard work and without doping try to the top,” he had written, adding that the doping scandal in 2006 in Torino was a black mark on sport in Austria and had shaped him as an athlete.

Now, his webpage reads only “As is already known from the media, there is doping allegations against JoE. A statement on this sensitive issue occurs after clarity on this situation prevails.”

According to the Associated Press, Stoss said in a press conference that Duerr had told the Olympic Committee that he had acted on his own and nobody else on the team was involved.

We’ll update this as soon as we have more information. For now, Link to TV2 article

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American Leif Nordgren (l)  and Bulgaria's Krasimir Anev sprint for 15th in Saturday's 4 x 7.5 k relay. Anev edged Nordgren by 0.7 seconds.

American Leif Nordgren (l) and Bulgaria’s Krasimir Anev sprint for 15th in Saturday’s 4 x 7.5 k relay. Anev edged Nordgren by 0.7 seconds.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Whatever Lowell Bailey’s teammates requested of him as the first leg of their 4 x 7.5-kilometer relay, they couldn’t have asked for much more than what the 32-year-old U.S. biathlete delivered on Saturday in their final race of the Olympics.

Bailey opened with the fifth-fastest course time and clean shooting through prone to put his team in ninth, then rose to fifth after cleaning his standing stage. He finished out his leg in fourth, 17.3 seconds back from Norway’s Tarjei Bø in the lead.

“I feel like that was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do today,” said Bailey, a three-time Olympian. “I wanted to push the pace in the first loop, so I was pretty aggressive there, and then things went well on the range. I didn’t try to push on the shooting, I didn’t try to do anything except hit the targets.”

Bailey said he focused on taking quality shots and it worked on the windless, 40-degree evening.

The team was without Tim Burke, who was out sick, and made a game plan with three Olympic-relay first-timers: Russell Currier, Sean Doherty and Leif Nordgren. Doherty was in his first race of the Games after arriving roughly a week ago. Nordgren was still sick, skiing for the first time since Tuesday.

Currier struggled with prone, using all three spares then having to ski three penalty loops. His standing was better, with two spares, and his fifth-fastest second loop  brought the team from 17th to 14th. Currier closed out the last loop in 15th, 2:21 behind the leaders.

Sean Doherty in his first Olympic race on Saturday as the U.S. third leg in the 4 x 7.5 k relay.

Sean Doherty in his first Olympic race on Saturday as the U.S. third leg in the 4 x 7.5 k relay.

Doherty used three spare rounds on prone, but cleaned standing to keep the team in 15th, tagging off to Nordgren as the anchor, 3:45.7 out from the lead.

“A few too many prone there. I can’t be too happy with that, but it was a high pace right from the get-go,” Doherty said. “I’ve been just trying to keep a level head with all the excitement and emotions running high here. It’s the first Olympic start, it’s really exciting. So it as just to have a good plan and executing it. And I almost did it! So I’m happy.”

Nordgren had two spares on each of his stages and continued to ski in 15th, before Bulgaria’s Krasimir Anev edged him by 0.7 seconds for 15th.

The U.S. men placed 16th out of 19 teams, the last three of which were lapped.

“I wasn’t expecting much,” Nordgren said. “I was able to hang with the Bulgarian guy on the last loop, which was more than I expected. Shooting-wise, I wasn’t really happy with that. I kind of struggled in standing with the two extras. It was an okay race. I’m happy with it, considering how I feel.”

Bailey said the team shouldn’t take the result to heart — they’re a young team that assembled as needed on a day when when of their best guys was out.

“Relays, they are tough races,” Bailey said. “It’s tough having Tim sick. All these guys have the capacity to have world-class performances, but it’s a tough sport. Unfortunately, when you have a couple of penalty laps it sets you back a lot. Russell was ready, I saw he put four seconds into the leaders on that first lap. So he’s definitely there.

“We’ve had the relay as a target for a long time, and nothing really went as planned,” he added. “Which is actually a lot of what biathlon is all about, is adapting when plans change. That being said, I’m happy with my individual performance. It was definitely, some races I underperformed, some races I did what I set out to do. I’m happy overall with the Olympics. Of course you always hope for medals. But to come within one shot at a medal, that’s something to be proud of.”

Bailey placed eighth in the 20 k individual earlier in the Games for US Biathlon’s best-ever Olympic result.

Results

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Ukrainian cross country skier Marina Lisogor has failed a doping test at the Sochi Olympics.

According to the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, Lisogor tested positive for the banned stimulant trimetazidine. The committee also stated that Lisogor had explained that she took the drug Preductal without realizing that it contained a banned substance.

Preductal is available in several Eastern European countries, the Russian Federation, and other form Soviet republics. Trimetazidine is the main ingredient. The drug improves glucose usage in heart muscle, improving energy metabolism, and is usually prescribed for angina pectoris, chest pain due to obstructions or spasms in the coronary arteries. However, because of side effects, it is not advised to prescribe the drug unless other drugs are unable to control angina pain.

Trimetazidine is also sometimes included in drugs which treat dizziness and tinnitis, although not as frequently anymore due to the same side effects.

It was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list on January 1st of this year. In the Q&A section of the WADA site, the organization explained, “cathinone and its analogues (e.g. mephedrone, methedrone, a- pyrrolidinovalerophenone) and trimetazidine have been added as examples to reflect emerging patterns of drug use.”

Lisogor said in a statement posted on the Ukrainean Olympic Committee website that the medicine had been prescribed by her doctor and she did not realize that it had been added to the banned list.

“I had a typhoid surgery back in 2004. After that cardiologist recommended to take the drug product ‘Preductal’ to support my physical condition. This medicine is sold out of prescription and is widely used by physicians. Before taking ‘Preductal’ I made sure that it did not consisted forbidden ingredients. I used ‘Preductal’ again at the 2014 Olympics not knowing that it was included into the list of substances forbidden to use during competition period since January 1st, 2014. It is my personal fault, and I’m very sorry I let this happened. But I would like to declare that I’ve done this mistake unintentionally. I delivered the same message to the IOC Disciplinary Commission. I told them the truth. Once again I apologize for this frustrating case.”

Lisogor, 30 years old, finished 58th in the individual sprint. She pulled out of the team sprint after teammate Kateryna Serdyuk had an injury. She has only had five World Cup starts in her career, all in sprints and all finishing outside of the top 30.

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Here’s a link to the International Olympic Committee’s decision on German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle’s positive drug test at the Olympics in Sochi:

http://www.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Disciplinary_commission/Sochi2014_Disciplinary_Commission-Sachenbacher.pdf

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – There has been a positive doping test by a nordic sports athlete here at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Although it was initially reported that the athlete was Norwegian, that appears to be incorrect and the athlete is actually German.

No further details have emerged as the case is in the hands of the IOC until the “B” sample can be analyzed, which will reportedly happen this afternoon although this is uncomfired. Sources within the German team have confirmed that it is either a cross country skier or a biathlete.

“All I can say is, we have a positive ‘A’ sample (somewhere on the German Olympic team),” German press officer Stefan Schwarzbach told the Associated Press. “But as long as we don’t have a positive ‘B’ sample, we are not allowed to talk about that.”

Schwarzbach is the press officer for cross country skiing and biathlon.

We will add updates to this story as soon as more details are available.

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