German authorities have confirmed that 21 athletes from five different sports and eight different countries are under investigation as part of the 'Operation Aderlass' doping inquiry. At a press conference in Munich on Wednesday, state prosecutor Kai Gräber warned that there were "more chapters to be written" in the inquiry.
Operation Aderlass first entered the public domain during last month's Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, where five cross country skiers were arrested as part of the inquiry into the activities of German doctor Mark Schmidt.
Two Austrian cyclists have since admitted to wrongdoing as part of the inquiry. Stefan Denifl, formerly of Aqua Blue Sport, reportedly confessed to blood doping after being arrested by Austrian police. Denifl dissolved his contract with CCC in December. Two days later, Georg Preidler quit Groupama-FDJ after revealing that he had his blood extracted on two occasions late last year with an intention to dope.
Mark Schmidt, formerly a doctor at Gerolsteiner and Milram, was one of four people arrested last month following a raid on his practice in Erfurt, Germany. Some 40 blood bags were seized at the time, and Gräber evinced confidence that the blood bags could be assigned to specific athletes.
"The 21 athletes come from five different sports, of which three are winter sports," Kai Gräber said on Wednesday, according to Sportschau.de.
Gräber did not name the athletes as the inquiry is still ongoing and declined to confirm whether the list of 21 names included German athletes. He added that transfusions were carried out in a number of different locations, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Korea and Hawaii.
It was also announced that an additional arrest was made on Monday. The individual in question is alleged to have transported blood bags and assisted athletes in doping.
"The time frame is from the end of 2011 to 2019 in Seefeld," Gräber said of the doping ring, adding that the number of transfusions carried out was in three figures. "We have here an exciting story with a lot of twists and the final chapter has not yet been written."
- Denifl confesses to blood doping in police interview
- Preidler admits to blood extraction as doping investigation widens
- UCI provisionally suspends Preidler and Denifl after blood doping confessions
- Ochowicz: No red flags in Denifl's biological passport
- UCI hopes to secure information on cyclists involved in blood doping investigation