German skeleton team cleared in magnet furor

The Canadian Press Vancouver 2010

WHISTLER, - The Olympic skeleton sled-magnet controversy has been demagnetized.

The sport's governing body announced Thursday it's dismissing allegations made by Canadian skeleton slider Jeff Pain that the Germans are cheating by putting magnets near the runners of their sleds.

"All the sleds on the World Cup are regularly tested and will get inspected again prior to the Olympics," Don Krone, director of communications for the FIBT, said in a news release.

The FIBT, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing, noted the German sleds were tested after every race in the last World Cup season and passed each time.

Krone also noted that the steel used in the runners of all competitors' sleds came from the same batch provided to all teams from the FIBT to ensure fairness.

Pain was unavailable for comment Thursday as he prepared to begin training runs for next week's skeleton races at the Olympics.

The 39-year-old Calgary veteran -- a silver medal winner at Turin in 2006 -- made headlines at a news conference Wednesday when he said the Germans have attached magnets near or on the runners.

He said any kind of magnetic field is against FIBT rules, adding he believes the magnets would create a shock absorber effect to help keep them sliding more efficiently and on the optimum driving line.

German team spokesperson Margit Dengler also dismissed the allegations, noting the German sleds were checked more than any other country because the team had more podium appearances.

The issue is not new to skeleton or to sliding sports in general, where teams fighting for thousandths of a second naturally look to exploit technical advantages.

Canadian bobsledder Pierre Lueders has also had his run-ins with the Germans, who have spent millions of dollars to improve sled designs that many say have given them a technical edge in many sliding sports.

At the Turin Winter Games in 2006, Andre Lange, the gold medal winner in the two and four-man events -- was accused in a German magazine of using plasma immersion implants on the sled runners to heat them up, allowing the sled to cut faster through the ice.

Lange denied the allegations, but Lueders publicly added to the controversy after seeing German sleds rocket down the track despite poor start times.

"I've been sledding for 16 years and my coach has been involved in bobsled for 20 years. We've never seen stuff like that. We're not stupid. If that's how they want to play it, whatever," the 39-year-old multiple Olympic medal winner said at the time.

Lueders declined to wade in on the magnet dispute when asked about it at a news conference Thursday.

But that didn't mean he wasn't willing to engage in a little trash talk.

A German reporter asked him to talk about his German roots (Lueders' parents were born there) and how it feels to compete against athletes like Lange.

"My parents are proud Canadians and I'm a proud Canadian. And I represent Canada and I'm here to do well for Canada and I really couldn't care less about the other countries," said Lueders.

"I've certainly had my battles with the German team. It just so happens my parents wanted to come to a better country."

Germany has never won an Olympic medal in skeleton but has a number of top-ranked athletes ready to take the podium at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

On the men's side Frank Rommel is ranked No. 2 in the world and teammate Sandro Stielicke is third. On the women's side Marion Trott is fourth and Anja Huber is eighth.