German officials have pledged to make changes following the Olympic team’s disappointing medal haul at the Sochi Games. Biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle’s positive doping test cast a further cloud over the delegation.
The head of the German delegation at the Winter Olympic Games told reporters in Sochi on Saturday that police in the southern German state of Bavaria had conducted a search of the home of biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle following her positive test for a banned substance.
Michael Vesper (pictured above, right), who is the general secretary of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DSOB), said police had also conducted at search of the biathlon performance center in Ruhpolding, southeast of Munich.
A spokesman for the Munich prosecutor's office said police had secured a food supplement during their searches of the biathlon center and two private premises.
He also said the investigation was not focused on Sachenbacher-Stehle personally, but that they were investigating "unknown persons" on suspicion of "bringing pharmaceutical products into circulation for the purpose of doping in sport."
Dietary supplement suspected
This comes a day after the news that Sachenbacher-Stehle had tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine. The 33-year-old German, who won two gold and three silver medals in cross-country skiing at previous Olympic Games, released a statement on Friday in which she blamed the positive test on a nutritional supplement. She also denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs.
On Saturday, Vesper said it appeared that the stimulant had been contained in a dietary supplement which she did not receive from the German team. It was "her private, personal decision" to use it, Vesper said.
Sachenbacher-Stehle was out of the line-up for Germany's 4 x 6-kilometer relay on Friday night. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also retroactively disqualified her from the 12.5-kilometer mass start and the mixed relay. This meant her fourth place finish in the mass start and the German team's fourth-place result in the mixed relay have both been wiped from the books.
The news of Sachenbacher-Stehle's positive drug test cast a further shadow over Vesper's press conference Sochi, in which he gave an assessment on how the German team had done in Sochi. Prior to the start of the Games, Vesper and the DSOB had set a goal of winning at least 27 medals, a target Germany was well short of at the start of the second-to-last day of competition. However, Vesper denied that they had been overly optimistic.
"It is right that we were not successful in many cases but I don't think it is wrong to set ourselves these goals," Vesper said. "We had a lot of bad luck, we had a lot of close fourth places and therefore we did not reach our intended goal of the amount of medals won."
The director of high-performance sports at the DSOB, Bernhard Schwank, said changes would be introduced in light of Germany's disappointing medal haul.
"We need to apply new methods of training and new coaching staff, and enhance the cooperation between the national sports union and international federations," he said.
DSOB President Alfons Hörmann (above left), meanwhile, used the press conference to announce that Felix Loch, who won gold in the men's luge and was part of the German team that won the team relay, would bear the country's flag at Sunday's closing ceremony.
pfd/mz (dpa, Reuters, SID, AFP)