Sexual assault allegations emerge in Austria's professional skiing scene

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Sexual assault allegations emerge in Austria's professional skiing scene
File photo of an Austrian ski resort. Photo: Violin/Depositphotos"

Austrian prosecutors said on Friday that they have launched a preliminary enquiry into possible sexual assault in the Alpine country's hallowed professional skiing scene in the 1970s and as recently as 2005.


The probe was sparked by Nicola Werdenigg, a former Olympic skier under her maiden name Spiess, saying this week that she was raped in the 1970s when she was 16 by a male team colleague.

"If you didn't want to play ball then your place (in the team) was in danger. There were cases of assault, sexual assault," she told the Der Standard daily. "Everyone knew about it. It was seen as normal."

In a subsequent television interview, Werdenigg, now 59, said that she was also aware of a case of sexual assault taking place in 2005.

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The head of the Austrian Ski Federation (OeSV), Peter Schroecksnadel, said he was taking the claims "very seriously" and said that Werdenigg has been asked to provide more details on the alleged 2005 incident.

On Wednesday another former skier anonymously backed up the allegations about the 1970s, telling Der Standard that she and others were seen as "fair game" and that a man tried to rape her in a hotel room.

"He said it was his turn," the woman said. "Everybody had things happen to them back then."

But another former champion, Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics, told ServusTV on Tuesday that she was unaware of any such abuse taking place.

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