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Officials plan to strip Alpine skier of World Cup win for oxygen mask use

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — The International Ski Federation (FIS) intends to strip German Alpiner Stefan Luitz of his first World Cup win for using an oxygen mask but will not seek a further ban.

FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said Friday that the German Ski Association has been notified that the rules call for “disqualification from the race at the event where the offense occurred.”

Racing in a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 2 that started at 10,340 feet, Luitz was seen using an oxygen tank between runs. He won by retaining his first-run lead.

The victory ended runner-up Marcel Hirscher’s five-race winning streak in the event, but the Olympic champion in giant slalom could yet be awarded the win, the 61st of his career.

FIS anti-doping rules state oxygen tanks cannot be brought to race venues, and “competition results achieved after the use of the equipment shall be automatically disqualified.”

“It’s part of the anti-doping and medical guide regulation but it’s related to a prohibited method so it’s very different from blood doping or taking of anabolic steroids and different offenses are categorized in different ways,” Lewis said. “This is just a breach of the regulations.”

The German association was informed of the FIS decision this week and now has two weeks to request a hearing before a decision will be made. After the decision is issued, the German association can appeal the ruling to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

While there were reports that other German skiers also used oxygen masks, Lewis said no other athletes were investigated.

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Stefan Luitz beats Marcel Hirscher for first World Cup win

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Stefan Luitz of Germany used a powerful finish to capture a World Cup giant slalom Sunday, ending Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher’s five-race winning streak in the discipline.

Luitz finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 36.38 seconds as he edged Hirscher by 0.14 seconds to break Hirscher’s streak that dates to last season. Thomas Tumler of Switzerland was third for his first World Cup podium. Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety tied for eighth place as the top American.

The last racer of the day, Luitz made up ground near the bottom. Luitz dropped to the snow in exuberance after seeing his name in first. Understandable considering seven-time World Cup overall winner Hirscher had won nine of the last 10 GS races on the circuit entering the day.

“Marcel is the best skier in the world for the last seven, eight years,” said Luitz, who picked up his first World Cup win and kept Hirscher from his 60th. “It’s unbelievable to be faster in those runs than Marcel.”

For going so fast, Luitz thanked his dad, who just so happens to be his ski technician. Luitz was able to take risks late in the race because he was feeling confident on the snow and trusted his surgically repaired knee. Luitz was on the podium twice last season before tearing a ligament in his left knee.

“I’m feeling really, really good,” Luitz said. “To come back after this injury and win the first race of the season, it’s unbelievable.”

By taking second, Hirscher has made the top-three in 16 straight World Cup GS events. It’s also his ninth World Cup podium at Beaver Creek.

Hirscher had the lead despite two mistakes. He had a feeling it wouldn’t be enough.

“Have you seen the last part? I sprayed a little bit,” said Hirscher, who recently became a new father. “This little bit of spray was too much. … Stefan went perfectly on the edge. He made it better.”

Tumler had quite an afternoon, moving from No. 48 to 21st in the first run and then leading for a good portion of the final run. He was hoping for a top-15 finish and got a whole lot more.

“I can’t describe my feelings,” Tumler said. “Just amazing to be on the podium with Marcel.”

Tumler recently trained a day with Hirscher. He inspired Tumler.

So did rooming with Swiss teammate Mauro Caviezel, who took second in both the downhill and super-G races over the weekend. Caviezel received a framed picture as a present for each of his podium finishes and said to Caviezel he hoped to earn one as well.

“Now, I have one,” Tumler said.

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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