Austrian cyclist Denifl found guilty of fraud in doping case

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INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) An Austrian cyclist who won a stage at the Spanish Vuelta was found guilty of fraud on Tuesday in connection with a doping scheme.

The Austria Press Agency reported Stefan Denifl received a two-year sentence with 16 months of that time suspended after being accused of doping from 2014 to 2018.

It was not immediately clear whether Denifl, who can appeal the ruling, would serve any time in prison. He has the option to apply to serve the time while living at home under certain conditions including monitoring with an electronic ankle tag.

Denifl admitted being involved in a blood doping ring allegedly run from neighboring Germany, but denied he earned money fraudulently by doping, APA reported.

Another Austrian cyclist, Georg Preidler, was given a 12-month suspended sentence in Austria last year.

Denifl won a Vuelta stage and the Tour of Austria, both in 2017, but was stripped of those accomplishments last year when he was banned from sports for four years by the Austrian National Anti-Doping Organization.

The case is part of a Europe-wide crackdown on blood doping which began when Austrian authorities raided teams’ accommodation at the Nordic skiing world championships in February 2019 and arrested five skiers, including one who was pictured with a needle in his arm.

A verdict is expected on Friday in another case in Germany against a doctor who allegedly oversaw the doping ring and some of his associates. In Estonia, a ski coach was given a one-year suspended sentence in 2019.

Austrian authorities have taken a hard line on doping in recent years. Unlike most other countries, Austria typically treats doping as a financial issue, with a focus on whether athletes earned prize money or lucrative contracts by cheating to improve their sporting achievements.