Vienna blood bank: ARD apologizes for doping report

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18.01.2008/ German public broadcaster ARD apologized yesterday for doping allegations against biathlon athletes, cross-country skiers and cyclists in connection with a blood bank in Vienna. Presenter Michael Antwerpes, speaking "in the name of ARD" at the start of a live report of the biathlon World Cup in Antholz (Italy), said the broadcaster was not justified in making general allegations without presenting any facts.

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Michael Rasmussen was named by ARD ( Cyclingheroes)

"It is not justifiable and not in accordance with our professional understanding to raise such general suspicions without having verifiable facts," Antwerpes said. The ARD sports reporter continued by saying: "We regret that in connection with this report accusations and insinuations have been made against athletes."

Stefan Schwarzbach, press officer of the German Ski Federation (DSV) said "the alleged doping affair" had now become "more or less a media affair." DSV announced on Wednesday that the federation will sue the reporters who made the report but not ARD itself.

Three cyclists of Dutch Pro-Tour team Rabobank were also named in the scandal. Two of the riders, Michael Boogerd (retired) and Michael Rasmussen (sacked after the 'where abouts' affair) left the team in 2007. Vuelta winner Denis Menchov is still riding for the team. Its not decided yet if Rabobank will take legal action as well. Rabobank's temporary team manager Henri van der Aat told Dutch daily newspaper 'De Telegraaf': "We are considering things calmly, we won't make any hasty decisions." Retired pro cyclist George Totschnig was also accused to be involved in the case. All four accused cyclists denied their alleged involvement in the case.

Heinz Jungwirth, general secretary of Austria's Olympic Committee (OeOC), demanded an end of the rumours and the presentation of hard facts. Jungwirth told Austrian newsagency APA: "Allegedly there is a list with names. But until that list is on the table, everything is pure speculation. This is a bad situation for the athletes."  Austria's Anti-Doping Committee (OeADC) said that it had no factual information at present, but hoped for new information by the end of next week.

On Tueday ARD reported that several world class biathlon- and cross country skiers where involved in the Vienna blood bank case. On Wednesday, ARD correspondent for doping cases, Hajo Seppelt already softened the allegations.

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