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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.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.