Ban on biathlon coaches lifted

VIENNA -- The Austrian Olympic Committee lifted a ban Thursday on five biathlon coaches who allegedly were involved in a doping scandal at the 2006 Turin Olympics, but upheld the suspension of seven other officials.

Alfred Eder, Walter Gapp, Walter Hoerl, Heinz Muehlbacher and Stefan Rohrmoser will be allowed to travel to next year's Olympics in Vancouver, committee president Leo Wallner said.

Wallner said he expected the International Olympic Committee to accept the decision.

The Austrian ski federation said Thursday it's "completely incomprehensible" that a ban on seven officials, including the federation's biathlon director Markus Gandler and cross-country coach Gerald Heigl, was upheld.

The decision on the five coaches was "a positive signal," but "a differentiation between guilty and not guilty is unacceptable," the federation said in a press release.

The group was excluded after Italian police raided the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team lodgings, seizing doping products and equipment.

The IOC later imposed lifetime bans on four Austrian athletes in the case and fined the Austrian committee $1 million.

Gapp, the biathlon coordinator, said the decision to lift the suspension did not make things right.

"This has come three years too late," Gapp said. "Our names have been wrongly dragged in the mud. No one has ever apologized to me for that."

Eder, the biathlon coach, said the seven officials that are still banned included ski waxers and service equipment men.

"It can't be true that our colleagues, who haven't done anything wrong either, are still banned," he said. "It's ridiculous."