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Frascati, Italy, May 15, 2019 (AFP) – Two current World Tour riders, Croatian Kristijan Durasek (UAE-Emirates, left in photo) and Slovenian Kristijan Koren (Bahrain – Merida, right in photo) have been suspended as police investigate an Austrian blood doping ring, the UCI said on Wednesday.
Two other retired riders, Italian Alessandro Petacchi and Slovenian Borut Bozic, have also been implicated in the Operation Aderlass investigation.
Koren, 32, who rides for Bahrain – Merida in support of Vincenzo Nibali, has been competing in the Giro d’Italia, which started this week and was 47th overall after Tuesday’s fourth stage.
UAE Emirates’ Durasek was riding in the Tour of California.
Both riders have been suspended by their teams and sent home.
According to Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, who organise the three-week Giro, sources “close to the dossier” claim that Koren and Bozic’s implication dates back to 2012-2013.
Koren was riding for Cannondale at the time, while Bozic, whose 21 wins include a stage of the 2009 Tour of Spain, rode for Astana.
Durasek, 31, who won the Tour of Turkey in 2015, is alleged to have more recent links.
Petacchi, who has won 48 Grand Tour stages, including 22 on the Giro d’Italia, has also been implicated, according to media reports on Tuesday.
Petacchi retired in 2015 won six Tour de France stages and 22 on the Giro, has denied the allegations outright.
“I never had a blood transfusion and I have no idea why I’m being connected with this case,” the 45-year-old told Corriere della Sera. Petacchi’s former teammate Danilo Hondo confessed using Dr. Schimdt for blood doping services in 2012 and 2013.
Petacchi, while retired as a professional, holds a UCI license and raced the Cape Epic in March. He was also suspended by the UCI for his involvement on Wednesday morning.
Borut Bozic works as a sport director for Bahrain-Merida after retiring from racing at the end of last year, but was not present on the Giro.
Operation Aderlass concerns German doctor Mark Schmidt, who was arrested during the Nordic ski world championships in February in a blood doping scandal involving sports stars from 21 disciplines and eight nationalities.