Christian Hoffmann gets 6-year ban

VIENNA -- Former Olympic cross-country ski champion Christian Hoffmann of Austria, who retired from the sport in 2009, has been given a six-year ban for blood doping.

The disciplinary committee of NADA, Austria's anti-doping agency, said Tuesday it found Hoffmann guilty of having his blood taken for doping purposes at a Vienna lab between 2003 and '06 and possessing a centrifuge for blood enrichment.

The 36-year-old Hoffmann won gold in the 30-kilometer race at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and was part of the Austrian relay team that won the world title in 1999. He holds six World Cup titles.

Hoffmann has always denied any wrongdoing and has never tested positive. However, prosecutors in Austria have been investigating possible blood doping by him and other athletes since early 2009.

NADA said Hoffmann colluded with cyclists Bernhard Kohl and Michael Rasmussen and Kohl's former manager, Stefan Matschiner, who later admitted he helped Kohl with blood doping.

Police found the centrifuge at Matschiner's house. Kohl, who retired in 2008 after admitting to the use of blood booster CERA during that year's Tour de France, accused Hoffmann of sharing in the purchase costs of around $100,500 and lending the centrifuge to other athletes, a criminal offense under Austria's anti-doping laws.

NADA provisionally banned Hoffmann in December 2009, preventing the athlete from possibly qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Hoffmann decided to end his career.

Hoffmann's lawyer, Hans-Moritz Pott, announced plans to fight the ban at an independent arbitration committee, and ultimately in a civil court.

"Not one violation of the rules has been proven," Pott told the Austria Press Agency. "(Hoffmann) says he has competed cleanly for 23 years and he can't let them do this to him."

NADA has backdated the six-year ban to the start of the provisional suspension two years ago. Hoffmann hasn't indicated that he's considering a comeback in the sport.