Skiing: 15 months jail for ski coach

Former Austrian nordic skiing and biathlon coach Walter Mayer was on Wednesday handed a 15-month jail term after he was found guilty of providing several top athletes with banned substances between 2005 and 2009.

The 54-year-old, who had faced up to three years in prison, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He was already implicated in a doping scandal involving Austrian biathletes at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

The former coach apparently supplied top Austrian athletes with banned substances between 2005 and February 2009, and became liable to charges after an Austrian anti-doping law came into force in 2008.

A fellow defendant, named Karl Heinz R., testified how he had acted as a middle-man and obtained banned substances such as growth hormones and the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) for Mayer from a Vienna pharmacist.

According to Karl Heinz R., the deliveries of EPO intensified in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Turin, which culminated in a raid on the Austrian team quarters where Italian police found used syringes, blood bags and performance-enhancing drugs.

Wednesday saw a former ski official and the former chairman of the Austrian Ski Federation's doping commission give testimony backing the prosecution.

The former, Johannes Obererlacher, said he surprised Mayer while the latter was administering a blood transfusion to racer Christian Hoffmann during the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002 where Hoffmann won the 30km crown.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), though, cleared Hoffmann of doping in a subsequent enquiry.

Former doping commission head Arnold Riebenbauer said Mayer had told him Austrian racers had participated in blood doping at the Humanplasma laboratory in Vienna.

Aside from Hoffmann, other alleged clients of Meyer included former cross country world champion Alois Stadlober, biathlete Wolfgang Perner and cross country skiers Juergen Pinter and Roland Diethart - the latter three received lifelong Olympic bans after the Turin Games.

Despite testimony in Meyer's favour from former biathlete Ludwig Gredler, as well as Stadlober and Pinter, who continue to deny doping, the Vienna count found the coach guilty.

Although all three were supposed to appear at the trial, Hoffmann, Perner and Diethart did not show up.

- AFP

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