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WADA laboratory boss hits back after bribery claims

By Thomas Hochwarter

The head of Austria’s top doping-control laboratory hit back after a former sports manager claimed he had paid workers at official laboratories to check urine samples of athletes.

Günter Gmeiner, chief of the Austrian Research Center in Seibersdorf, Styria, said today (Fri) he could "in all conscience" exclude the possibility that staff at the institute – which is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – had been paid or bribed.

His statement comes after Stefan Matschiner, former manager of disgraced ex-cyclist Bernhard Kohl, claimed he had paid staff at WADA offices to check urine samples to find out whether athletes he was working with would test positive in doping tests if they took part in an upcoming competition.

Matschiner, who was kept in investigative custody for five weeks in April and May, is still the target of investigations by Austrian special police commission "SoKo Doping". He worked with Bernhard Kohl, who was found to have done blood doping during last year’s Tour de France in which he finished in third place and was the best climber.

Kohl, 27, initially denied any doping activities but, last autumn, made a tearful confession and pledged to cooperate with investigators. He accused Matschiner of being a key man in international doping circles.

Seibersdorf laboratory boss Günter Gmeiner also told ORF.at he could not imagine bribery was possible at any of WADA’s other 33 centres all over the world since he knew its control mechanisms.

Earlier this year, former Austrian triathlete Lisa Hütthaler revealed she had tried in vain to blackmail a Seibersdorf employee in a dramatic bid to cover up a positive doping probe of herself that she knew about after hearing from colleagues that staff at the laboratory was open-minded about doing so. The 25-year-old, who is cooperating with anti-doping investigators, also ended her career. Gmeiner stressed he had immediately informed anti-doping authorities about the incident.

Gmeiner, who warned athletes might consider "genetic doping" at some point in the future, said his office was constantly gearing itself up with the latest technology but added: "Doping is getting more and more complex and proving it has occurred is getting more difficult and expensive. It will be a big challenge in the future."

Matschiner’s claims have shocked the European sports scene this week as the Track and Field World Championships are set to take place in Berlin from this weekend. Speaking to German broadcaster ARD about production of a documentary, the 34-year-old said: "The employees were given 150 or 300 Euros. That way, it was possible perfectly to prepare the athletes."

The Upper Austrian claimed the method had worked for years and might still work.

Matschiner said he consoled the athletes he was responsible for with doping substances "from various sources in Austria and other countries", adding it was his goal to "ensure they had the right stuff at the right time without delivering positive doping results."

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Tag cloud:
athletes  Matschiner  laboratory  Kohl  Bernhard  nter  urine  bribery  positive  samples  doping  WADA  Seibersdorf  Austria  investigative  hearing  sports  investigators  staff  Gmeiner


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