- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

VIENNA (AP) - Police in Austria have arrested an unidentified professional cyclist for allegedly supplying doping substances to other riders over an extended period of time.

Public prosecutors in Vienna on Friday said a 32-year-old Austrian cyclist, who was only identified as “K”, was arrested on charges of systematically supplying others with banned performance-enhancing substances EPO and testosterone.

Prosecutor Gerhard Jarosch said the cyclist was in custody, adding that the suspect had received the drugs through a pharmacist in Vienna. He did not specify the time period for the alleged sales, or how police tracked down the suspect.

The cyclist is the first Austrian athlete to be arrested under the country’s toughened anti-doping laws, which took effect at the start of the Beijing Olympics in August 2008 and call for prison terms of up to five years for drug cheats.

Austria sharpened its laws to make it a criminal offense to possess banned substances. Manipulating blood or genetic material also became a crime, with harsher penalties for those who help athletes dope.

Anti-doping officials in Austria welcomed the arrest.

“I am very pleased, this is very positive,” said Andreas Schwab, head of the country’s national anti-doping agency NADA. “The anti-doping laws are not as toothless as some might think.”

Cycling in Austria was rocked by a doping scandal last year when Bernhard Kohl was banned for two years by NADA for using the blood booster CERA at the 2008 Tour de France.

Kohl, who finished third in the Tour and won the polka-dot jersey for best climber, had admitted he used the drug, which is a version of the endurance-boosting hormone EPO.

Otto Flum, the president of the Austrian cycling federation, said the new case could further damage the image of the sport in Austria.

“Obviously there still are hopeless and dumb athletes among us who throw us back in our fight against doping over and over again,” Flum said. “This case shows that the new anti-doping laws are working well. I hope this will scare everyone off who is still involved in doping.”

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