February 20, 2006
Tainted gold?
Allegations of cheating linger on
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

CESANA PARIOL, Italy -- Pierre Lueders shook Andre Lange's hand. At one point he even put his hand on his shoulder.

But he didn't change his mind on his statements suggesting that Germany was cheating with illegal runners on their bobsleds, even if he didn't take the issue any further after settling for silver behind Germany's Lange in a blizzard here last night.

"It's like I tell little kids - cheaters never win," said Lueders after being beaten by 0.21 seconds over four runs in the two-man event - in which Lueders won gold four years ago in Nagano.

The implied suggestion was that the medal will be tainted to most people in the sport.

The Edmonton driver avoided commenting further on his accusations from the first night of competitions when it was over.

"Right now the race is over, and I have another race to focus on. I'm just going to focus on that," he said at the podium press conference.

Privately, he said he never accused Lange personally of cheating, but his comments were aimed at the German team. "It's not him I have a problem with," he said, and left it at that.

Lange said he understood the comments were not personal. "I've never been attacked personally by any pilot," he said.

Considering the controversy, it was interesting that Lange was 6th, 5th, 3rd and 5th on his starts and yet made up more time on Lueders (who twice had the best starts and twice the second best) and Martin Annen of Switzerland, who was twice first and twice third, on the usually crucial starts.

CHOSE WORDS CAREFULLY

Winner of the bronze in the event for a second consecutive Olympics, Annen chose his words carefully.

"He's been a professional for many years and he definitely has good equipment," he said of Lange, who had refused all media interviews all week until the podium press conference.

Asked to comment on a German newspaper story which first detailed the alleged illegal coating on the runners - plasma immersion implants which makes the runners harder and reduces friction and makes the sleds an estimated 0.10 faster each run - Lange pleaded not guilty.

"The story is simple," he said. "I try not to get involved, but there were material controls carried out regularly. The instrument used by the race officials said everything was regular and I was not worried about it.

'CHECKED MANY TIMES'

"I was confident of my equipment. I knew they were checked many times, so I decided not to care about what people said."

With the weather for the final two runs of the four-run event making the day a challenge just to get down the course without making a major mistake, it was a different day.

"I've never competed in an event where it started snowing with a blizzard like this," said Lueders of more than a foot of snow dumped in the Italian Alps 90 kilometres outside of Turin, which shutdown the entire mountain transportation system for almost three hours.

The snow slowed the times and made driving very interesting. It also resulted in almost no change in the standings from the first two runs Saturday.

"There was especially heavy snow in the fourth heat," said Lange. "It was difficult because I had to drive around snow heaps in some places. We did it, but we always had to drive in the centre."

Lueders said he couldn't believe it at one part of the 19-turn track.

"There were snow piles on the straightaway out of turn 11."

Snow was falling in such volume that race officials pulled the sun shields down over the entrances and exits to each of the corners. Between runs, track staff jumped onto the course to sweep away as much of the snow as they could manage, and all the drivers went out of their way to commend the job they did despite the odd pile they had to drive around.

Consideration was given to cancelling the fourth run. "My position as leader after the third run made it easy to wait for the decision," said Lange.