Coach at center of doping probe crashes car after police chase in Austria
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- The banned Austrian ski coach at the center of a doping investigation at the Turin Olympics crashed his car into a police roadblock Sunday evening after leading authorities on a bizarre chase.
Walter Mayer was slightly injured in the accident, in which he struck an unoccupied police car set up as an impromptu barrier in the town of Paternion in the southwestern province of Carinthia, about 15 miles from the Italian frontier and some 250 miles from Turin, police said. He was taken into protective custody.
Mayer was returning to his native Austria just hours after Italian authorities searched Austria's biathlon and cross country team quarters for banned substances. Police acted on a tipoff that Mayer -- who was accused of blood doping at the 2002 Olympics while he was Austria's Nordic team coach -- was with the team.
Italian police seized blood analysis equipment during the raids, as well as syringes, vials of distilled water, asthma medication and other substances, the national news agency ANSA reported, quoting unidentified investigative sources. One Austrian athlete threw a bag out of a window containing needles and medicines, and Mayer apparently left the scene in a minivan, ANSA said.
The chain of events in Austria started when Mayer pulled over to the side of the road and took a nap in his car, a police statement said.
A suspicious local resident alerted police that a man was sleeping in a car with the engine turned off, and when officers arrived on the scene to wake him up, Mayer sped away, striking and slightly injuring an officer, the statement said.
The officers on the scene then called for backup, and authorities parked an empty police vehicle across the highway as a roadblock. Mayer slammed into the squad car, totaling both vehicles.
Police said Mayer refused to take a blood-alcohol test, which an officer requested after Mayer showed signs of intoxication.
It was unclear whether he would face criminal charges, and authorities declined to say whether they searched his vehicle for doping substances or equipment. Mayer's driver's license was provisionally suspended.