Olympic hero Muehlegg tests positive


Triple Olympic gold medallist Johann Muehlegg has tested positive for a new blood-boosting drug with similar properties to EPO (erythropoietin), IOC medical committee member Jordi Segura said today.

"This substance from the pharmacological point of view has the same effects as EPO," Segura said. "It has been developed recently and is very similar to EPO but lasts much longer in the body and its effects are delayed.

"Many people believed that it could not be detected in laboratories but it can."

Segura also said that an "adverse" report affecting three athletes, one of whom was Muehlegg, was in the hands of the Olympic Committee. He refused to name the other athletes.

Spanish Sports Minister Juan Antonio Gomez Angulo said the substance "did not appear on the list of banned substances as such".

"We have to be cautious and firm when it comes to the battle against doping, but we also have to respect the rights of the athletes," he told Radio Nacional. "I have the impression that the IOC is trying to resolve this case too quickly."

Yesterday, German-born Muehlegg blamed a special diet for the need to have a second blood test before being allowed to compete in the 50 km classical race, which he won.

Cross-country skiers have to give blood before races to measure the level of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the muscles. If they are above a certain level the skier is not allowed to compete on health grounds.

Russia's women's cross-country team was forced to withdraw from the relay after abnormalities had shown up in the blood test of two of their skiers. One of them was five-time Olympic champion Larisa Lazutina.