BERLIN (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has welcomed the conviction of former Austrian skiing coach Walter Mayer for doping, applauding his country’s tough anti-doping laws.
Mayer was at the heart of two of the biggest doping scandals to hit the Winter Olympics, first at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and four years later in Turin, Italy.
“While it is not our role to pass judgment on court rulings, we believe we do have a duty to alert the public to show we take the fight against doping seriously and to discourage athletes and their entourages from doping,” the IOC told Reuters in an e-mailed response on Friday.
“In this respect, the IOC welcomes the recent decision by the Austrian court.”
In May 2002, the IOC declared Mayer ineligible to participate in all Olympics up to and including the 2010 Olympic Winter Games following a blood transfusion scandal during the 2002 Games.
After he was reappointed national cross-country skiing coach, the 54-year-old’s presence “in a private capacity” at the Turin Olympics triggered raids by Italian police on Austrian athletes’ accommodations and a hasty escape across the border by Mayer.
Ten Austrian athletes were tested for signs of doping but were found to be clean.
Mayer crashed his car into a police road-block near the Italian-Austrian border having left Turin on the day of the raids.
“The IOC cannot and does not wage its fight against doping on its own,” the body said.
“We require the joint assistance of governmental and judicial authorities around the world to combat such cheating and we are pleased that the Austrian government has adopted legislation that allows them to prosecute those who bend the rules in flagrant violation of ethical standards and fair play.”
Mayer was given a 15-month prison sentence on Thursday after being found guilty of supplying doping substances to athletes.
Twelve months of the sentence were suspended for a period of three years. Of the remaining three months, Mayer has already served several weeks in custody following his arrest.
The former national coach, who had pleaded not guilty and called the trial a “show”, was freed pending an appeal.
Mayer, who occupied various posts in the Austrian Ski Federation (OSV) between 1994 and 2006 including head coach of the Nordic skiing team, was arrested in March 2009 and charged with supplying doping to athletes between 2005 and 2009.
Since 2008, Austria has introduced several acts which make the provision of doping substances a criminal offence.