Cross-country skier Johannes Duerr, originally a medal contender for Sunday’s 50-kilometres race, has tested positive for the blood booster EPO in the latest Olympic doping debacle for Austria.
The Austrian Olympic Committee (OeOC) said Sunday that Duerr was caught in an out-of-competition test on February 16. The examination of the B-sample is yet to be carried out.
“We are shocked about the news and have taken the necessary action,” OeOC president Karl Stoss said in a statement.
Duerr (26) was swiftly removed from the start list for the 50km race, scheduled for 0700 GMT Sunday.
Duerr placed third at the 2014 Tour de Ski, famously overtaking Norwegian star Petter Northug at the last climb of that stage race.
He was eighth in the Olympic skiathlon two weeks ago and rated a serious medal contender for Sunday’s 50km.
He is now the fifth athletes to be tested positive at the Games.
Early Sunday, it was announced that Latvian ice hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs has tested positive for the banned substance methylhexanamine following the men’s quarter—final game between Latvia and Canada and has been excluded from the Games.
Austria has been engaged in major doping affairs at two of the last three winter Games.
Cross—country skiers Marc Mayer and Achim Walcher were disqualified after the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City when blood doping instruments were discovered at their accommodation.
Four years later, Italian police carried out a raid on the quarters of the Austrian cross—country and biathlon teams in which blood doping equipment was found. Wolfgang Rottmann, Wolfgang Perner, Martin Tauber, Juergen Pinter, Johannes Eder and Roland Diethart were subsequently disqualified and most of them received life bans for the Olympics in the aftermath.
The OeOC was also fined 1 million dollars by the International Olympic Committee.
The positive tests to Duerr and Pavlov follows those to German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher—Stehle, a two—time gold medallist in cross—country skiing at past Games, Italian bobsledder William Frullani, and Ukrainian cross—country skier Marina Lisogor.