By Susan Westemeyer
The situation is getting critical for two team doctors at T-Mobile Team. Doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich were both named by former soigneur Jef d'Hont in his book as having provided illegal doping products to Team Telekom members during the 1996 Tour de France.
The two are facing an investigation by the Freiburg, Germany, prosecutor's office. German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke filed a complaint against the two, which has led Oberstaatsanwalt Wolfgang Maier to open an investigation. "The information available to us has encouraged us to pursue the investigations," said Maier to the AFP news agency. Franke charged that the two had violated laws concerning prescription medicines and cause bodily injury.
In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Maier said, "We will now try to investigate whether these violations actually occurred and whether the statute of limitations has passed. The statute of limitations for such actions is five years," he said. However, the newspaper indicated that investigators thought it possible that they could find further violations which had occurred within the last five years.
The doctors are also being investigated by their employer, the Freiburg University Clinic. Hans-Hermann Dickhuth, head of the clinic's Sports Medicine department, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "I can't deny that the charges against the two doctors has become a big problem. These are relatively specific charges and when even one-tenth of the story is true, then it is a 'worst case' scenario for them both." He told the AFP that "Doctor Schmid gave me the impression that these revelations could be a problem."
The clinic has called for an independent commission to investigate the allegations.
Dickhuth said that he was surprised that Schmid apparently does not plan to sue d'Hont over the allegations, which T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton had suggested he do. T-Mobile spokesman Christian Frommert said that the team would "acknowledge and respect" the doctors' decision not to sue, adding, "Possibly they will choose another way to defend themselves."
Frommert added that the two doctors will not be working with the team for the future, and that, in fact, Schmid had not been "directly with the team" for a while.
Suspended medical services
T-Mobile Team Manager Bob Stapleton announced early Thursday afternoon that Heinrich and Schmid will not provide medical services to T-Mobile Team while doping charges against the two are being investigated. "We look forward to the independent review and resolution of the unproven allegations recently detailed against the University of Freiburg," Stapleton said on the team's website, t-mobile-team.com.
"After discussion with Doctors Heinrich and Schmid, we have mutually agreed to discontinue their personal provision of medical service during the course of these inquiries so that no further distraction or confusion is created for our athletes," he added.
The team will "develop alternatives that will provide our athletes with the best possible medical support. We are fully prepared to take action as needed based on the conclusion of diligent and fact-based evaluation."