Vanessa-Mae banned for rigged Olympic qualification

Vanessa Mae
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Violinist Vanessa-Mae was banned from competitive skiing for four years for participating in rigged qualifying races in Slovenia that earned her berth into the Sochi Olympics in February.

Vanessa-Mae, who skied in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, was last among 67 finishers in the Olympic giant slalom, 11.35 seconds behind the 66th-place finisher and 50.1 seconds behind winner Tina Maze.

She was a late qualifier into the Olympics, following four giant slalom races Jan. 18-19 whose results were “manipulated,” according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). Those races were organized at the request of Vanessa-Mae’s management and were her last opportunities to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.

FIS outlined eight ways the races were manipulated, including listed competitors not being present and one skier falling in a run and finishing second, with her time adjusted afterward by more than 10 seconds.

Vanessa-Mae has 21 days to appeal through the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“But it doesn’t make much difference for her,” FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper said, according to The Associated Press. “She was racing (the Olympics) probably only once and that’s all. But in any case we prevented her from being at the next Olympics.”

In July, the Slovenian Ski Association president said the qualifying race results were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi,” according to The Associated Press.

Vanessa-Mae, 36, has sold in excess of 10 million albums since her 1995 debut, according to the Guardian. She began playing violin at age 5 and was a child prodigy, one year after she started skiing.

Also Tuesday, one Slovenian ski official received a two-year ban and three Slovenian and one Italian official received one-year bans for their roles in the qualifying races.

Notes from USADA drug-testing statistics update