Olympic skiing champion Hoffman retires

VIENNA, Dec. 31 -- Former Olympic cross-country ski champion Christian Hoffmann announced retirement Thursday after Austria's national anti-doping agency NADA suspended him for his alleged involvement in blood doping.

"I won't have a chance now to qualify (for the Vancouver Olympics). As it would have been my last season anyway, I quit immediately," Hoffmann was quoted in the Austria Press Agency as saying.

The 35-year-old Hoffmann won gold in the 30-kilometer race at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and was part of the Austrian relay team that won the world title in 1999. He holds six World Cup titles.

Earlier Thursday, NADA banned Hoffmann from all competitions with immediate effect until a hearing by the agency's disciplinary committee has taken place.

NADA did not reveal a date for the hearing, but Hoffmann's attorney Hans-Moritz Pott said it would take place on Jan. 29.

That would mean that Hoffmann won't be able to qualify for the Olympics in Vancouver.

Hoffmann has never tested positive, but prosecutors in Austria have been investigating possible blood doping by him and other athletes since May.

"I just didn't get the chance to defend myself and to prove my innocence," Hoffmann said.

NADA had officially opened proceedings against Hoffmann earlier this month.

Hoffmann allegedly colluded with cyclists Bernhard Kohl and Michael Rasmussen and Kohl's former manager Stefan Matschiner, who was arrested in March and has admitted he helped Kohl with blood doping.

Matschiner was kept in custody for five weeks for allegedly playing a major role in a nationwide doping scandal.

Earlier this year, police found a centrifuge for blood enrichment at Matschiner's house. Kohl accused Hoffmann of sharing in the purchase costs of around 75,000 euros and allegedly lending the centrifuge to other athletes, a criminal offense under Austria's anti-doping laws.