Former Austrian ski coach given jail sentence

VIENNA (Reuters) - Former Austrian skiing coach Walter Mayer has been given a prison sentence after being found guilty of supplying doping substances to athletes, a court official said Thursday.

Mayer was sentenced to 15 months in jail, with 12 months of that sentence suspended for a period of three years. Of the remaining three months, he has also already served several weeks in custody following his arrest.

The 54-year-old, who had pleaded not guilty, was freed pending an appeal following the sentence Wednesday evening, the official told Reuters.

Mayer was banned by the International Olympic Committee from attending the Turin Games and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver after being implicated in a blood transfusion scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The coach's presence prompted the IOC to launch coordinated night-time raids with the Italian police on the hotels of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon teams.

Ten Austrian athletes were tested for possible signs of doping but were found to be clean.

Mayer crashed his car into a police road-block near the Italian-Austrian border having left Turin on the day of the raids.

Since 2008, Austria has introduced several acts which make the provision of doping substances a criminal offence, making Mayer liable to prosecution.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ossian Shine)