Kohl's ex-manager charged as supplier

VIENNA -- The former manager of banned cyclist Bernhard Kohl says he assisted the Austrian rider with blood doping.

Stefan Matschiner was arrested Tuesday for allegedly supplying performance-enhancing substances to several athletes. He admits he helped Kohl with blood transfusions but denied supplying banned substances, Matschiner's lawyer said. Lawyer Franz Essl said police searched Matschiner's house but found no doping-related substances.

Kohl has been banned for two years after a doping violation at last year's Tour de France, where he finished third and was the race's best climber.

The cyclist admitted using the blood booster CERA and said Matschiner had also been supplying EPO, growth hormones, insulin and testosterone since they started working together in 2005. Kohl said he was "not surprised" by his former manager's arrest and added he had been cooperating with anti-doping officials.

"He has given me several doping products," Kohl said. "That's a fact. And that's what I told the investigators."

Matschiner also managed Michael Rasmussen when the Danish cyclist was removed by his Rabobank team from the 2007 Tour de France while in position for almost certain victory. The team said Rasmussen lied about his whereabouts when he missed pre-race doping tests.

Police arrested the 34-year-old Matschiner immediately after he returned to Austria from a trip to the United States, prosecution spokeswoman Michaela Schnell said.

Matschiner allegedly sold doping products after Austria's toughened anti-doping laws took effect in August 2008, prosecutors said. Selling banned substances is now a criminal offense with prison terms of up to five years.

Matschiner is a former 1,500-meter runner who founded the sports agency ISA in 2003. According to its Web site, the agency manages 23 track and field athletes, mainly from Kenya, but no cyclists anymore.

Austrian triathlete Lisa Huetthaler, who was suspended last fall for using an endurance-boosting hormone, said last week Matschiner had been her main supplier. Huetthaler said she paid Matschiner more than $20,000 for doses of EPO. Matschiner has denied the allegations.

Prosecutors said several other athletes also brought up the manager's name in relation to doping suppliers.

Austria increased its efforts to eradicate doping after the 2006 Turin Olympics scandal. Italian police raided the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team lodgings, seizing a large amount of doping products and equipment.

Last week, former Austrian Nordic skiing coach Walter Mayer was arrested on suspicion of selling doping substances three years after triggering the Olympic scandal.

Prosecutors declined to say whether they believe there's a link between Matschiner's arrest and Mayer's case, which also involved Austrian cyclist Christoph Kerschbaum and an unidentified pharmacist from Vienna.

Kerschbaum was released from custody a week ago, 11 days after being arrested for allegedly supplying doping substances to other riders.