NewsGerman Biathlete, Former XC Skier Sachenbacher-Stehle Reportedly Tests Positive – UPDATED

Nathaniel HerzFebruary 21, 201412
Evi Sachenbacher Stehle (GER) has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance.
Evi Sachenbacher Stehle (GER) has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance.

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, 33, has tested positive for the use of a prohibited substance, according the German news agency DPA.

The agency did not cite the source that gave them Sachenbacher-Stehle’s name. She is a biathlete who switched to the sport from cross-country skiing last winter.

Stefan Schwarzbach, a spokesman for the German Ski Association, said Friday evening that he could confirm that an  A- and B-sample from a German skier had tested positive for a stimulant.

He did not identify the athlete’s name or gender, or the sport in which the athlete competed. But he said the athlete belonged to his association, which includes teams from biathlon, cross-country skiing, nordic combined, ski jumping, alpine skiing, and extreme sports.

Schwarzbach stressed that the substance was not one of the banned blood-boosting drugs like erythropoietin, which athletes have used in endurance sports like cross-country skiing and biathlon to enhance their fitness. The fact that the substance was not erythropoietin, he added, suggests that it could have been administered accidentally.

Schwarzbach said that he could not confirm the athlete’s identity until more information is released by the International Olympic Committee, which is responsible for drug testing at the Olympics.

“I only confirm that it’s an athlete of our ski federation,” he told a group of reporters at the Olympic biathlon venue.

On Thursday evening, the International Olympic Committee informed the German Olympic Committee that a sample from one of its athletes had been tested and returned an adverse analytical finding, according to a statement from the GOC on Friday.

An adverse-analytical finding is a preliminary positive test. The GOC said that a test of the athlete’s B-sample had been scheduled for Friday, and that more information would be released afterwards.

At the 2006 Olympics, the IOC benched Sachenbacher-Stehle due to a high hemoglobin reading, and was not allowed to start competing until the reading went down.

Hemoglobin is an oxygen-transport protein in the bloodstream, and higher hemoglobin is generally desirable in endurance sports. Sachenbacher-Stehle appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but lost. (You can read the verdict here.)

Sachenbacher-Stehle is not on the start list for Friday evening’s women’s biathlon relay. She placed fourth in the 12.5 k mass start competition, losing out on a bronze medal in a sprint finish with Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff, but then had a relatively weaker performance in the mixed relay, using two spare rounds in each shooting stage.

Schwarzbach said that the team for Friday’s race had been set “long before” the report of the adverse analytical finding from the IOC.

Sachenbacher-Stehle’s brother Josef told the German newspaper Bild that “she has done nothing wrong,” and that she “would never dope.”

In a brief interview Friday, Wolfgang Pichler, a German who now coaches part of the Russian women’s biathlon team, said that the report of the positive test is “a catastrophe for the sport.”

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Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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12 comments

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 21, 2014 at 6:42 am

    She had to miss part of the 2006 Olympics due to high hematocrit levels – which wasn’t definitively a sign of doping but suggested it. If she’s positive this time it would not surprise me at all.

  • apresski

    February 21, 2014 at 7:25 am

    I for one will never be able to wrap my head around the use of any illegal methods of performance enhancement. There is nothing I value more than ones integrity. This latest round of news is disgusting.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 21, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Some people value €s even more.

  • nordicmatt

    February 21, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Scroll down the webpage and a previous article glorifies her biathlon prowess. As Jim McKay said, “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    February 21, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I seem to remember one of the US women found to have high hematocrit level and had to sit out a week or so in 2006 too? maybe it was 2010? – and not guilty of doping.
    wonder what the “substance” was…probably not pepsi cola, and I guess they are not busting for too much coffee.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Yes. Here is an article about several athletes, including two Americans, who had excessively high hematocrit at the 2006 Olympics.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=oly&id=2325045

    It’s possible to naturally have too high a level, or to reach too high a level due to legitimate means such as sleeping a lot at altitude.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    February 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Wish I could get some high hematocrit…would be easier to get to the fridge for another beer in the evening.

  • Big Joe

    February 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Mr Epokeedsbyn.. perhaps you are waiting until too late in the day for your evening workout. Try it in the morning.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    February 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Big Joe,
    easy for you to say…some of us have to be at work at 7:00 AM.

  • Big Joe

    February 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    You are one hard working dude epokeman

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    February 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    BJ, that’s what I tell the boss every chance I get.
    Seems like this German girl got caught in the old spiked supplement trick. Has happened before. I know a pro u.s. cyclist proved the same a few years ago and I think even filed a civil suit against the supplement manufacture – Scott Monniger maybe?
    Anyway, back to work before the boss catches me…

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    A stimulant? OK, I’m a little surprised by that. If it was EPO/CERA or blood doping I wouldn’t have been surprised.

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