- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Stunned by the news that a teammate had tested positive for doping, top-ranked Germany failed to live up to expectations Friday in the women’s biathlon relay.

Germany was a medal favorite after a string of good results on the World Cup circuit, but was out of contention already after the first leg and finished in a disappointing 11th place.

The Germans found out earlier in the day that teammate Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle had tested positive for a banned stimulant.

“I can say that you could see the result tonight,” Stefan Schwarzbach, spokesman for the German biathlon and cross-country teams, said after the race.

Franziska Hildebrand, who skied the third leg for Germany, said team members were “totally shocked” by the news.

“We tried to focus on the race, like we all do the time,” said Andrea Henkel, who skied the second leg. “It was not so easy, but we did our best.”

Franziska Preuss fell on the first leg and with snow stuck on her rifle she struggled at the shooting stations, missing four targets.

That put Germany nearly 3 minutes behind at the first exchange. They never pulled closer, finishing 3 minutes, 41.7 seconds behind winner Ukraine.

Sachenbacher-Stehle, a former two-time Olympic gold medalist in cross-country skiing before switching to biathlon two years ago, finished fourth in the mass-start race. Team officials said they had decided to compete without her in the relay before they found out she had tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine.

She blamed the positive test on a nutritional supplement and said she had never knowingly taken performance-enhancing drugs.

The relay capped a disappointing Olympics for the German women, who will leave Sochi without a medal.

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