Stefan Denifl has confessed to blood doping in a police interview, according to reports published in the Austrian media on Sunday morning.
Denifl was questioned by police on Friday as part of the investigation into German sports doctor Mark Schmidt that saw five athletes arrested at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld, Austria last week.
Citing sources in the prosecutor’s office in Innsbruck, Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung and state broadcaster ORF report that Denifl confessed to using banned practices. The 31-year-old was subsequently released from custody. ORF reports that Denifl is likely to be charged with sporting fraud, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years in Austria.
A stage winner on the 2017 Vuelta a España with Aqua Blue Sport, Denifl signed with CCC in October of last year following the demise of the Irish team. On Christmas Eve, however, CCC announced that Denifl’s contract had been terminated by mutual agreement “for personal reasons.”
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Denifl rode for Cervélo TestTeam in 2010, and later raced for Leopard Trek, Vacansoleil and IAM Cycling. He had previously competed for Austrian Pro Continental outfits Voralberg and Elk-Haus Simplon. The Tyrol native scored the biggest successes of his career in 2017, when he won the Tour of Austria and then soloed to stage victory on the Vuelta at Los Machucos.
Following the dramatic arrest of five cross-country skiers at the World Championships last week, Dieter Csefan of the Austrian Federal Police Office said that the case would “certainly” spread to other sports.
Dr. Mark Schmidt, who is based in Erfurt, Germany, was also arrested last week following a raid on his medical practice. Schmidt was a team doctor at Gerolsteiner when Bernhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher tested positive in 2008, and later moved to Milram. In 2009, Kohl told Austrian newspaper Kurier that Schmidt had overseen doping practices at Gerolsteiner. Schmidt denied the claim.