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by Iain Treloar
December 23, 2019
Operation Aderlass looks set to claim another two riders, with reports that two German WorldTour cyclists are being investigated over their involvement in a blood-doping ring.
The investigations, which began with raids at the World Ski Championships in February of this year, have snowballed through 2019 to reveal a blood-doping network operating across multiple sports, including cycling. At the centre of the network is disgraced German doctor, Mark Schmidt, formerly the team doctor of professional cycling teams Milram and Gerolsteiner.
To date, six riders have confessed to their involvement, including Austrian riders Georg Preidler and Stefan Denifl, German sprinter Danilo Hondo, and Slovenian riders Kristijan Koren (Bahrain–Merida), Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates), and Borut Božic. Retired Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has also been linked to Schmidt and sanctioned for two years, although he claims his innocence.
Last month, the UCI announced that it had requested retests of samples from the 2016 and 2017 seasons, thanks to information and documents handed over by Austrian authorities working on the Operation Aderlass investigations.
In the latest developments, two German riders are reportedly under scrutiny. Their names have not yet been released, although ARD has confirmed that both riders rode the Tour de France, were on “high class” WorldTour-level teams, and one is still active. There are presently 18 active German WorldTour riders who have also participated in the Tour de France.
The latest revelations have been accompanied by added detail from prosecutor Kai Graeber about the extent of the doping network. “We have identified practically every kind of top-class sporting competitions and events,” Graeber said. “It ranges from the Olympic Games to world and European championships to national championships.”
In relation to cycling, Graeber said that “practically every major event” is affected, including the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Tour de Suisse.
Schmidt has reportedly been detained since February and cooperated with investigators in the first few months, although “decided to end the cooperation” in May. He is accused of a total of 145 criminal matters, related to at least 21 athletes from five sports and eight nationalities.