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4 suspended for rigging Vanessa-Mae results

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Four Slovenian ski officials were suspended Friday for allegedly rigging the results of pop violinist Vanessa-Mae to help her qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Competing in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, using the surname of her Thai father, she finished a distant last among the 67 racers who completed the two runs in the Olympic giant slalom.

To earn enough points to be eligible for the games in February, she had to compete in official races in Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The Slovenian Ski Association said Friday it found evidence indicating that the races it hosted in January were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi.”

The Slovenian association president, Jurij Zurej, said the suspected irregularities included falsification of times and rankings.

“The starting list included a person who did not even compete, a racer who fell was registered as finishing high in the standings,” Zurej said. “In addition, the dates of the competitions did not match the actual state when the races were held.”

Zurej said that Vanessa-Mae might not have known about the violations at the time.

The 35-year-old, who was born in Singapore and raised in Britain, said after finishing the race in Sochi that she was thrilled to have taken part, although she clocked the two runs in a total of 3 minutes, 26.97 seconds – 50.1 seconds slower than gold medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia.

“The Olympics is like the greatest show on earth and to just share the same snow, to be able to slide down the same snow that the elite skiers carve down is just an honor and a privilege,” Vanessa-Mae said at the time.

The Slovenian association has proposed four-year suspensions for the four officials involved in the organization of the races, including Vlado Makuc, the head of the country’s Alpine skiing body. The findings of the investigation will also be forwarded to the Slovenian police and FIS, the Swiss-based international ski federation.

Former Slovenian ski association head Enzo Smrekar said that he had been approached by FIS delegates at a recent congress of the World Ski Federation, asking him about ski “talent shows” held in January in Slovenia.

“At first I had no clue what they were trying to say, it was only later that others told what they were alluding to,” Smrekar said.

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Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this story from Belgrade, Serbia.