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Austrian tests positive for EPO

Sochi: An Austrian cross country skier was thrown out of the Sochi Olympics and labelled a "scoundrel" by his own team Sunday after testing positive for blood booster EPO -- the fifth doping case to hit the Games.

Johannes Duerr, who had been due to take part in the men's 50km on the final day of the Games, tested positive in a pre-competition test in Austria on February 16, organisers said in a statement.

Duerr is the fifth athlete to be excluded over a failed drugs test from the Sochi Games, where the International Olympic Committee is carrying out more tests than ever with a new emphasis on pre-competition tests.

However, Duerr is the first athlete to test positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a blood booster that became notorious for its use among cyclists.

The Austrian took part on February 9 in the first cross country event of Sochi 2014, the skiathlon, finishing eighth but then left Sochi between races.

Duerr told Austrian ORF television after arriving back home from Sochi that he had "disappointed so many people... with my stupidity".

"I have nothing to say other than to apologise to everyone, to my family and my wife," he said.

"I'm not scared and in some ways happy that this has come to an end," he added cryptically, admitting he had trusted the wrong people.

It is not the first time a doping scandal has hit an Austrian team at a Winter Games.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics Italian police raided the living quarters of Austrian athletes, seizing incriminating evidence of blood doping.

Four cross country skiers and two biathletes were banned for life from their sports.

'The team is broken'
Only just recovering from the 2006 scandal, Austrian sports officials reacted with undisguised fury to the positive test.

"You can't describe it. This is the worst thing that I could not even dream about. The team is broken," Austria's director for biathlon and cross country Markus Gandler told ORF.

"We ripped our asses off for this dog and then you get deceived in this way. I'm sorry for the team that we had such a scoundrel."

Karl Stoss, president of the Austrian National Olympic Committee added: "This is really a sad chapter and a black Sunday."

Austria's ski federation said that "whoever is guilty of doping will be expelled from the federation." "It's a betrayal against all other athletes."

Duerr had enjoyed a strong season up until now, winning a World Cup race in Val di Fiemme and coming third in the prestigious Tour de Ski.

He would have been a possible medal chance in the men's 50km, a blue riband event that is the traditional curtain closer for Nordic skiing at the Olympics.

Only one positive doping test was recorded during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, after seven apiece in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee said cross country skier Marina Lisogor had tested positive and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later revealed it had sanctioned Latvian men's ice hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs.

German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Italian bobsledder William Frullani also failed tests earlier.

The case of Sachenbacher-Stehle, 33, who won two golds at previous Olympics, has shocked German sport. She insists she consumed the banned stimulant accidentally in a dietary supplement.

The IOC, which oversees drug testing at the Olympic Games, has carried out more than 2,630 drug tests at Sochi 2014.

IOC president Thomas Bach said Sunday there had been a 64 percent increase in pre-competition and out-of-competition testing to catch out cheats.

"What is important is that we see the system works. The IOC is serious with zero tolerance," he added.

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