By Nick Butler

Manuel Machata, celebrating a World Cup victory in 2012, has been banned for a year ©AFP/Getty ImagesMarch 3 - Former world champion Manuel Machata has been banned for a year by the German Bobsleigh Luge and Skeleton Federation (BSD) for lending equipment to Russian rival Alexander Zubkov ahead of him winning two gold medals at Sochi 2014.

In a bizarre story Machata, part of Germany's victorious four-man team at the 2011 World Championships but who did not qualify for Sochi 2014, privately lent his personal sled to Opening Ceremony Flagbearer Zubkov for a fee ahead of the Games.

While the Russian went on to pilot his country to two-man and four-man gold medals, and by doing so became one of the biggest stars of the Games, Germany went without a bobsleigh medal at an Olympics for the first time since Innsbruck 1964.

As well as a one-year competitive ban, Machata has been fined €5,000 ($6,900/£4,100) for causing "great damage" to the interests of the Federation, it was announced today.

The BSD insisted that this did not explain the team's poor performance in Sochi but was nonetheless important to preserving the "national interest" of the team. 

 "Of course we are aware that sleds were traded internationally in the past," said BSD President Andreas Trautmann.

"This procedure I've always been critical of.  

"We will take the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi as an opportunity to set clear rules for German athletes in our regulations.

"This relatively harsh punishment against Manuel Machata should be a first step in order to preserve national interests."

Alexander Zubkov won two gold medals at Sochi 2014 after carrying the Russian Flag at the Opening Ceremony ©Getty ImagesAlexander Zubkov won two gold medals at Sochi 2014 after carrying the Russian Flag at the Opening Ceremony...evidence of the benefit of the bought equipment ©Getty Images

But the decision by the BSD has been criticised in some quarters and a Facebook petition has been launched to defend an "absolutely fair gesture" that displays the "Olympic spirit in model fashion". 

As of this afternoon, the petition only had around 100 supporters.

Sochi 2014 was notable for several cases of sportsmanship including one where, in the reverse situation of the bobsleigh case, German skiers and biathletes were lent kit by the Russian team after the Germans had problems with their own gear.

A German athlete is also responsible for perhaps the most famous example of good sportsmanship in Olympic history, when long jumper Luz Long advised American Jesse Owens to altar the length of his run up ahead the Berlin 1936 Olympic final.

Owens went on to take the gold medal while Long took silver.

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