Mayer serves 37 days in drug case

Updated: April 30, 2009, 3:07 PM ET
Associated Press

VIENNA -- Former biathlon coach Walter Mayer of Austria, who allegedly sold doping substances to several athletes, was released from custody Thursday.

"A great feeling," the 52-year-old Mayer was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency. "I was more than surprised when I was told that I could leave."

Prosecutors had kept Mayer in custody for 37 days in connection with an investigation into the illegal sale of EPO and other banned drugs. The investigation also included Bernhard Kohl's former manager Stefan Matschiner, cyclist Christoph Kerschbaum and an unidentified pharmacist of Vienna.

"I've never dealt in doping products," Mayer said. "From this network they believe I am connected to, I only know Matschiner."

Mayer's lawyer, Christian Pilz, was also "surprised" by the release of his client.

"There has obviously been a decision on Mayer's release which I am not aware of," Pilz said.

It remained unclear why Mayer was released and whether he's still regarded as a suspect. Vienna state prosecution could not be reached for comment.

If charged and convicted of selling illegal performance-enhancing substances, Mayer could face up to five years in prison under Austria's sharpened anti-doping laws.

Mayer was banned from the Olympics through 2010 for his part in a blood-doping scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

He defied that ban and traveled to the Turin Games in 2006. After being tipped off about his presence, Italian police raided the lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team, seizing doping products and equipment.

The International Olympic Committee later imposed lifetime bans on four Austrian athletes in the case and fined the Austrian Olympic Committee $1 million.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press