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Bobsled championships end in chaos

February 2, 1997

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) _ A Swiss medal sweep at the four-man bobsled world championships degenerated into chaos Sunday when the top three teams were disqualified for equipment violations.

Germany, which finished fourth, was at first declared the winner, but organizers then relented and said the Swiss would remain on top pending a final decision.

``There is no world champion at the moment. There’s nothing,″ said Florian Blumer, one of the organizers.

No nation ever swept all three medals at the world championships since the event started in 1924.

The International Bobsled Federation will review the evidence in two weeks at its meeting in Nagano, Japan, and decide whether the Swiss or Germans should be world champions.

The race jury ruled the front axles of the Swiss sleds did not conform to international rules. The Swiss immediately appealed, maintaining they had been using the sleds for the past year with no objections.

Reto Goetschi, who won last week’s two-man event, piloted Switzerland II down the course in 4 minutes, 8.94 seconds. He was followed by Christian Reich and Switzerland III, .18 seconds behind, and Marcel Rohner’s Switzerland I.

Wolfgang Hoppe’s Germany I sled finished fourth, but might become world champion in two weeks if the federation rules against the Swiss.

Dirk Wiese’s Germany II finished fifth and might gain the silver medal. Brian Shimer of the United States, the sixth-place finisher, might get the bronze.

Germany, the Olympic champion in 1994 and world champion in 1995 and 1996, was the favorite going into the competition.

Under bobsledding rules, the front axle should be in one piece. But all the Swiss sleds were made up of two pieces, Blumer said. It was possible this provided a speed advantage, he said.

It was not immediately clear why previous controls had not uncovered the rule violation.

Canada coach Jeff Hugill of Calgary said the the winning Swiss sleds were all checked by the federation after the race.

``They found that all Swiss sleds were using multiple-piece axles and that is clearly not allowed in the rules,″ Hugill said. ``I was dumbfounded when I heard what had happened. I can’t say anybody was suspicious about the Swiss equipment, but I certainly wondered how Reich for instance, who is pretty inexperienced, could do so well here.″

Tom de La Hunty, head of the control commission, said there also were other technical violations relating to the axle. However, adding to the confusion, was a rule book discrepancy. The German-language rule book specifications differ from the English-language ones.

``It’s possible all the bobsleds have the same problem,″ Blumer said. He added that only the top three finishers had been tested, under a previously reached agreement.

``And now all the other sleds have left, and we can’t control them,″ he said.

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