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Four More Skiers Suspended for Blood Tests

February 10, 2006

TURIN, Italy (AP) _ Four more cross-country skiers received five-day suspensions Friday for testing positive for high levels of hemoglobin in their blood, bringing the total to 12 in two days. The four join eight others _ including two Americans and a former gold medalist from Germany _ who were suspended.

There is no proof that the athletes did anything wrong: Elevated hemoglobin can be caused by simple dehydration or the body’s acclimation to mountain air. But the test result raises the possibility of blood doping with synthetic hemoglobin or transfusions to increase the oxygen in the muscles.

The International Ski Federation said Alen Abramovic of Croatia, Russians Pavel Korosteljev and Nikolai Pankratov, and Robel Teklemariam of Ethiopia had elevated levels of hemoglobin in their blood, the red blood cell that can increase endurance.

The tests were conducted by the FIS, which said the suspensions were not disciplinary, but to ``protect the health of the athlete.″

``We are confident that five days is a sufficient time to allow for the blood values to normalize if they are the result of living at a high altitude or dehydration,″ said Bengt Saltin, chairman of the FIS medical committee. ``However, a five-day period is not sufficient to remove the impact of EPO (erythropoietin) or blood transfusion.″

The two Americans were Kikkan Randall and Leif Zimmerman.

The other skiers were: Sean Crooks of Canada; Sergey Dolidovich of Belarus; Jean Marc Gaillard of France; Aleksandr Lasutkin of Belarus; Natalia Matveeva of Russia; and Evi Sachenbacher of Germany.

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