Austrran cross-country skier suspended in doping probe

VIENNA (AP) Austrian cross-country skier Harald Wurm was provisionally suspended amid a doping investigation on Thursday, a week before the World Cup season starts.

The Austrian ski federation said the head coach of the cross-country team, Gerald Heigl, temporarily stepped down until Wurm's case is completed. Heigl denied any involvement.

In August, police opened an investigation into alleged doping violations by Wurm and searched the premises of the two-time Olympian.

The federation said it had access to police files and expected that Wurm has a case to answer.

The 31-year-old athlete was excluded from all team training and competitions, just over a week before the World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland, on Nov. 28-29.

Wurm said he felt ''prejudged'' by the federation's measure, adding he should be regarded innocent until proven guilty.

''My name has been damaged,'' Wurm told the Austria Press Agency. ''I can't understand it all. I've not had one single positive test.''

Heigl's name also appeared in the files, according to the federation. The coach denied any wrongdoing but decided to step down until his name has been cleared.

The national anti-doping agency was evaluating the police investigation and had yet to decide on opening its own proceedings against Wurm, NADA spokesman David Muller said.

Wurm won the under-23 world title in 2006 and has four top-10 World Cup finishes. He competed in the sprint events at the 2006 and 2014 Olympics.

Last year, Wurm's teammate, Johannes Duerr, was banned for life by the federation after being kicked out of the 2014 Sochi Games for using EPO. If found guilty, Wurm will also be expelled from the federation, it said.

Wurm's case could deal another blow to the already tarnished image of Austrian cross-country skiing, less than four years before Seefeld will host the Nordic world championships.

In December 2009, Christian Hoffmann retired after he was provisionally suspended for blood doping by NADA, which later formally banned the 2002 Olympic champion for six years.

Austrian Nordic skiing coach Walter Mayer was implicated in a blood-doping case at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and banned by the IOC from the Turin and Vancouver Olympics.

Mayer, however, did show up at the 2006 Olympics, triggering an Italian police raid on the Austrian team lodgings in which blood doping equipment and other substances were seized. No Austrians tested positive at those games, but the IOC later banned several for life.

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