September 12, 2014

VIENNA (AP) Austria is tightening its anti-doping laws, making it illegal for athletes to work with coaches and officials who have been banned in doping cases.

''There will be an increased focus on the athlete's entourage,'' Austria sports minister Gerald Klug told national radio station Oe1 on Friday.

Klug didn't elaborate on how the rule can be enforced effectively but said testing will concentrate more on sports with a history of doping.

''We are going toward more intelligent testing,'' Klug said. ''We'll focus mainly on sports which have been affected by doping many times, and on athletes who show a sudden major improvement in their performance.''

The new laws also make complicity in drug cheating a criminal offense and include stricter rules for witnesses called by the National Anti-Doping Agency.

''For investigations you need witnesses,'' the minister said. ''In the past, many witnesses just didn't appear for a hearing. In the future, they can be obliged by a criminal court to testify.''

Also, the standard suspension for a first doping offense will be doubled from two to four years in accordance with the new World Anti-Doping Agency Code.

''A four-year suspension will effectively mean the end of a career in many cases,'' Klug said.

The laws, which will take effect in 2015 barring rejection by the Austrian Parliament, come less than a year after Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr was expelled from the Sochi Olympics for using the blood booster EPO.

Duerr admitted to taking the drug after he tested positive in a sample taken in Austria, where he had returned for training during the games.

Austria has been increasing its fight against banned substances since its biathlon and cross-country teams were caught up in a blood doping scandal at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Acting on a tip, Italian police raided the Austrian team lodgings near Turin and seized blood doping equipment and other substances. No Austrians tested positive at those games, but the IOC later banned several for life.

The biathlon and cross-country director of the Austrian ski federation, Markus Gandler, was at the center of investigations but was cleared of wrongdoing by an Italian court in 2012. Gandler was also in charge of the cross-country team at the Sochi Games.

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