Glamorous skiing violinist Vanessa Mae banned for 'manipulated' Olympic entry

Vienna: Glamorous violinist Vanessa Mae's dreams of becoming a professional skier took a major tumble Tuesday after she was banned for four years over her rigged qualification for the Thai team at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The International Skiing Federation (FIS) said that a hearing panel had established that the qualifying event, held in a blizzard in January 2014 in Slovenia in southeastern Europe, was riddled with irregularities.

The "manipulated" races on January 18-19 resulted in points calculations "that do not reflect the true performance of the competitors that participated ... and in particular the points awarded to Vanessa Vanakorn (Mae)," the FIS said.

Mae, 36, a former child prodigy with the violin born in Singapore to Thai and Chinese parents but who grew up in Britain, was given a four-year ban from participation in any FIS-sanctioned events worldwide.

Two giant slalom races in the Krvavec resort on January 19 were recorded as involving a competitor who was not present, while someone else who fell over was placed second after having 10 seconds taken off her time, the FIS said.

Other problems included at least one competitor who started away from the starting gate "outside the automatic timing wand that was manually opened by the starter when she was already on the course," the FIS said in a statement.

A previously retired competitor with the best FIS points in the competition took part for the sole purpose of lowering the penalty for the other participants, and the race courses were not changed for the second runs as stipulated by the FIS.

In addition, weather conditions were so bad that no regular race could be held and "any comparable competition in Slovenia would have been cancelled," according to the competition referee.

FIS banned Slovenia's Borut Hrobat, in charge of the race, for two years, while FIS technical delegate Fabio De Cassan of Italy, Slovenia's race timer Matiaz Goltez, referee Vlado Makuc and starter Uros Sinkovec were all banned for a year.

Off key
As Thailand's first ever female skier at an Olympic Games in the Russian resort of Sochi in February, Mae -- racing under her father's surname Vanakorn -- made headlines and added a splash of glamour to the event.

But unlike her successful music career with millions of album sold, her performance on the piste as one half of the Thai team was underwhelming, coming 67th and last in the giant slalom, far behind the rest of the field.

"I expected to be last but at the end of the day the Olympics is a great opportunity," she said at the time. "I nearly crashed three times, but I made it down and that was the main thing."

Mae has described music as her "lifelong passion" but skiing as her "lifelong hobby". The FIS said she has 21 days to appeal the decision.

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