Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler have been handed four-year bans by the Austrian National Anti-Doping Organisation (ÖADR) after they confessed to blood doping. The two Austrian riders were snared by the Operation Aderlass police investigation in Austria and Germany.
The doping inquiry has centred on the activities of the former Milram and Gerolsteiner team doctor Mark Schmidt, who is based in Erfurt, Germany. In addition to Denifl and Preidler, five other past and current riders have been provisionally suspended based on evidence amassed by the investigation.
Denifl, formerly of Aqua Blue Sport, confessed to blood doping when interviewed by Austrian police as part of the Operation Aderlass doping inquiry. The 31-year-old had signed a contract with CCC for the 2019 season but asked to have it rescinded in December.
When news of Denifl’s confession was published in early March, Preidler came forward and confessed to Austrian police that he had withdrawn blood on two occasions in late 2018 with an intention to dope.
“I had my blood taken out but never put it back. But the thought and the fraudulent intent are already a crime," Preidler told Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung at the time.
Preidler quit his Groupama-FDJ team, and both he and Denifl were handed provisional suspensions by the UCI. The ÖADR has now confirmed that both riders will serve four-year bans, running from March 5, 2019 until March 4, 2023.
Denifl’s results from June 1, 2014 to March 5, 2019 have been expunged, meaning that he will lose his stage win on the 2017 Vuelta a España and his overall victory at that year’s Tour of Austria. Preidler’s results from February 1, 2018 and March 5, 2019 have been disqualified. Both will have to give back any prize money and pay the costs of their sporting trial.
Preidler and Denifl have four weeks in which to appeal their suspensions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“Since it was agreed that the disciplinary proceedings would be conducted by the Austrian Anti-Doping Organization, the UCI will recognize these decisions, upon expiration of the deadline to appeal,” read a UCI statement on Thursday.
The Operation Aderlass blood doping inquiry first entered the public domain when five Nordic skiers were arrested during the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria in late February.
Denifl and Preidler’s confessions were published the following weekend and five individuals have since been handed provisional suspensions after they were implicated in the inquiry.
Current WorldTour riders Kristijan Koren (Bahrain-Merida) and Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates) have been provisionally suspended together with Austrian mountain biker Christina Kollmann-Forstner.
Former riders Alessandro Petacchi and Borut Bozic, who is a directeur sportif at Bahrain-Merida, have also been provisionally suspended following their implication in the inquiry.
Danilo Hondo was sacked from his position as Swiss national team coach in May after he confessed to doping under the supervision of Schmidt. Hondo’s name does not feature on the list of provisionally suspended athletes on the UCI website.