Disgraced Austrian ski coach Walter Mayer is still waiting for his trial on charges related to doping. Mayer made headlines in 2006 when he violated a suspension by showing up at the athlete’s village, and then fled by car, ultimately crashing into a police roadblock.
Blood doping equipment was found at the house where he was staying in Italy. Mayer had been banned form the 2006 and 2010 Olympics after similar equipment was found at the lodgings of the Austrian team at the 2002 Olympics.
Mayer spent time in a psychiatric facility following the 2006 incident. The following interview depicts a man who is neither repentant nor particularly stable.
While doping dealer Stefan Matschiner, who made headlines yesterday when his juicy exposure book about the rampant use of doping was released, is expecting to be acquitted, the former Austrian Ski Association coach Walter Mayer is still waiting for his legal process. For him, everything is true, except the presumption of innocence.
OÖN visited Mayer.
OÖN: Mister Mayer, the spring of 2009, you were held in jail for five weeks while being investigated. Do you know when your trial will take place?
Mayer: No, but I have heard from a friend that Mister Holzner, the head spokesman for the special commission of Darabos (Ed. Norbert Darabos is the minister of defense sports in Austria), indicated it could happen in March.
OÖN: You mean the Special Commission for Doping?
Mayer: Yes, but I call it the special commission of Darabos.
OÖN: Do you feel like you are a victim of the justice system, given that your case seems to have stalled for so long?
Mayer: I can’t really call myself a victim. Out of principle and based on what I have experienced with the law, I would have been harder on me. Take my stupid car accident in Kärnten (Mayer was charged with drunken driving after his attempt to escape from the Turin Olympics in 2006). I should have exited the vehicle, like I thought about. For that I should have deserved jail time.
OÖN: Are you afraid of the doping trial?
Mayer: No, au contraire. I’m looking forward to when it starts, because I will use the public exposure to set some things straight for the record. Until now, I’ve simply been unfairly judged.
OÖN: Could there be others out there who should be concerned about this trial?
Mayer: What definitely is clear, is that Walter Mayer has not broken the doping laws. And that is their problem.
OÖN: So you expect to be acquitted?
Mayer: As long as the case doesn’t get skewed, yes.
OÖN: Do you believe that Austrian sport has changed since the doping scandal in Turin in 2006*?
Mayer: In international comparison, we have taken yet another step back. Austrian sports might have become cleaner, but at the international level, they’re still doing it. Armstrong is still racing Tour de France and Hoffi (Christian Hoffmann) is currently under a 1-year suspension but his case won’t even be investigated. That’s just unfair, and that’s what I resent. When the minister of culture and sports Darabos believes that the rules of sports are the same all over the world, you see just how clueless he is. The rules might be the same, but how they are honored and handled is quite different. We have a minister of sports and defense who defends everything except Austria.
OÖN: What happens if the doping samples from Turin would be tested again and come up positive for illegal substances such as CERA, Dynepo and Biosimilar?
Mayer: That was my suggestion. But not just the samples collected after the medals, but the entry/base level samples. If you did that, then Austria would surely win the overall medal count for the Games. The rumors have it that the Germans were using Dynepo, the Russians were on Biosimilar and the Italians were using CERA.
OÖN: And the Austrians?
Mayer: Nothing at all. They only had infusions.
OÖN: Are you done with the elite sports scene?
Mayer: No, I’m still interested. I have a lot of knowledge and I follow trends keenly. For instance, look at how much weaker the German cross-country skiers have gotten since the 2006 Turin Olympics. They have just not restructured yet.
OÖN: Are sports healthy?
Mayer: Sport is a cultural commodity and a good thing. But at the international level it is not healthy, with or without doping.
OÖN: And despite that, you brought your son Marc into competitive cross-country skiing.
Mayer: Knowing what I know now, that is the biggest mistake I’ve made.
OÖN: What would you do if you were the minister of sports?
Mayer: I would mix everyone on the international circuit up so that elite sports would be unprotected and marketed for what it is: a competition between gladiators. I would allow some substances that currently are illegal, and let anyone do what they felt like they needed to within certain limits. That would be the healthiest way to deal with this. These days, some athletes are pumping dog blood into their veins, that can be proven, but everyone acts as if nothing is happening. They don’t even bother to test for growth hormones. The system is an illusion. Special commission Darabos doesn’t even want to know that some Austrian athletes are shelling out €30,000 for growth hormones.
OÖN: Is there an organized doping network in Austria?
Mayer: Compared to what’s out there on the international level, we’re small potatoes. The big nations have certain medications five years before they are marketed. That’s a fact, and nobody can do anything about it.
From http://www.nachrichten.at/sport/mehr_sport/art109,536849,January 19, 2011. Translation by Inge Scheve