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Despite doping saga, Turin lived the dream
Updated: 2006-02-27 10:38

TURIN (Reuters) - Hermann Maier was billed as Austria's headline maker at the Turin Olympics. Nobody bargained for Walter Mayer.

As at the Athens summer Games two years ago, an extraordinary saga straight from the pages of a crime thriller distracted attention from the sporting spectacle.

While the world's winter athletes played out their dreams on snow and ice, the unwelcome presence of banned Austrian cross-country coach Mayer triggered a doping furor that refused to die down.

Midnight raids led to the discovery of syringes and blood transfusion equipment and talk of illegal methods.

Two Austrian athletes fled while Mayer, banned from the Olympics after a blood doping case in 2002, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after crashing his car into a police roadblock in Austria.

The recriminations will rumble on but doping was not the scourge it had been in previous Games. Only one competitor, Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva, was stripped of a medal and that was for a test before the Games.

The Austrians did better than ever, with Alpine skier Maier adding a silver and a bronze to the two golds he won in 1998 while Benjamin Raich led a 1-2-3 finish in the final men's slalom.


If the slogan 'Passion Lives Here' sometimes rang hollow, with locals more excited by soccer than ski jumping, thousands of revelers gathered nightly in Turin for medals ceremonies while the slopes and arenas provided lasting memories.

No single athlete dominated in Turin, although Canadian women's speed skater Cindy Klassen picked up five medals, but history was made.

Germany topped the medals table, with biathlete Michael Greis taking three golds and Andre Lange the first driver since East German Wolfgang Hoppe in 1984 to win both the two and four-man bobsleigh.

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