Georg Preidler found guilty of fraud in Operation Aderlass doping case

Georg Preidler (Groupama-FDJ)
Georg Preidler (Groupama-FDJ) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Georg Preidler was found guilty of sporting fraud by the Innsbruck Regional Court on Wednesday and given 12 months of probation and fined €2,880 after admitting to his involvement in the blood doping ring uncovered in Operation Aderlass in 2019, according to the Esslinger-Zeitung (opens in new tab). The sentence is still subject to a possible appeal.

In addition to finding Preidler guilty of fraud, the court also fined an unnamed former rider €6,000 for their links to a man who supplied Preidler with illegal substances.

Operation Aderlass first came to light when authorities walked in on an athlete performing a transfusion during a raid on the Nordic Skiing world championships last February. German investigators then targeted a garage in Erfurt linked to the alleged ringleader Mark Schmidt, a former Milram team doctor, and found 40 blood bags in storage.

Preidler, 30, admitted to having his blood extracted twice in 2018 but has denied having the blood re-injected, saying that he acted "out of pure curiosity" and that Schmidt "wanted to show me how it works in sport."

"My decision to do blood doping was stupid and fundamentally wrong. I bitterly regret it," Preidler said in January.

Schmidt is facing charges of drug law violations and anti-doping rule violations. His case is due to be heard in September.

The German authorities confirmed 21 athletes from five different sports and eight separate countries were involved in the doping scheme.

Preidler and compatriot Stefan Denifl were the first to confess to their involvement. The UCI has since suspended them and Kristijan Durasek, Kristijan Koren, Borut Bozic, Alessandro Petacchi and mountain biker Christina Kollmann-Forstner as part of the affair.

Prosecutors in Innsbruck charged Preidler with fraud after the UCI suspended him because the world championships were held there in 2018 and Preidler was part of the Austrian team for the road race and time trial. They argued that he had defrauded his team, race organisers and sponsors by resorting to blood doping.

While Preidler denied doping before 2018, his former Team Sunweb squad has threatened to sue him for damages if he doped during the 2017 season, during which he supported Tom Dumoulin in his Giro d'Italia victory.

The Aderlass case has raised questions about the effectiveness of the UCI's Biological Passport programme. The longitudinal blood testing was designed to detect the effects of blood-boosters such as EPO and autologous blood transfusions, which are difficult to detect directly.

According to CCC Team manager Jim Ochowicz, who had signed Denifl for the 2019 season before the Austrian abruptly terminated his contract, Denifl's passport showed no no red flags.

The UCI disqualified Denifl's results from 2014-2019, while they annulled only 2018 and 2019 results from Preidler's record. The disqualification generally applies only to the period of the anti-doping rule violation.

Durasek lost results from late 2016 through 2019, Bozic and Koren from 2012, and Petacchi from 2012-2013.

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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.