Austrian prosecutors said Thursday that cyclist Christof Kerschbaum was arrested and charged with distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, making him the first athlete who faces jail time under provisions of the country’s new anti-doping law.
Kerschbaum, a former national team rider, faces up to six months in prison. The court accused him of having supplied performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO, to other athletes beginning in mid-2008.
Austria increased penalties for possession and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs in 2008, allowing for jail terms of up to five years in prison. Following the adoption of tougher provisions in 2009, the Austrian law is now regarded as the world’s toughest.
Last year, Kerschbaum was arrested and detained for ten days in connection with the case. The cyclist was indicted five months ago but prosecutors only announced the move on Thursday at the opening of a trial against a Vienna pharmacist, who allegedly supplied Kerschbaum with doping substances.
Kerschbaum was already detained in March 2009 as part of an investigation into the trafficking of doping products but was released after 11 days on the condition that he would not seek to influence proceedings.
The cyclist later admitted he had obtained EPO, testosterone and other doping substances in 2004 from the Vienna pharmacist who is now on trial.
The former coach of Austria’s Nordic ski team, Walter Mayer, was also arrested as part of the same investigation, and is also suspected of having procured and supplied a variety of doping products.
Mayer had already been implicated in doping scandals at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006.
Austria strengthened its anti-doping law even further last year. Athletes found guilty of doping can now be jailed for up to 10 years on charges of sporting fraud.
Kerschbaum most recently rode for the Radclub Wels team, winning the road championship of the Upper Austria province in 2007 and the 2008 Top Rad Liga.