Danilo Hondo has told a court in Munich that he and his Lampre teammate Alessandro Petacchi used services from Doctor Mark Schmidt for blood doping during the 2012 season. In testimony during the Operation Aderlass trial on Tuesday, Hondo stated that he and Petacchi had undergone blood transfusions in the same room.
"If you have a relationship so close that it was almost fraternal, then you have no problem being doped together in one room," Hondo told the Munich Regional Court, according to the DPA news agency.
Hondo served as Petacchi’s lead-out man at Lampre from 2010 to 2012. He told the court that he had been approached by Schmidt in the winter of 2011, and he paid the former Milram team doctor approximately €25,000 for his services before ceasing their collaboration at the end of the 2012 season.
Both Hondo and Petacchi were among the cyclists implicated in the Aderlass blood doping inquiry, which entered the public domain last year after police raided the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria and uncovered evidence of a blood doping ring. Forty blood bags were also discovered in a raid on a garage linked to Schmidt in Erfurt, Germany.
Schmidt admitted to doping athletes at an earlier sitting of the trial in September. The trial is expected to last into December.
Hondo confessed to blood doping last year in an interview with ARD and he was immediately fired from his role as coach of the Swiss national team. Petacchi, who retired in 2015, has denied wrongdoing, but he was handed a two-year ban by the UCI last year.
In his evidence on Tuesday, Hondo outlined how athletes doped by Schmidt used codenames similar to those employed to label blood bags in Operación Puerto. Hondo’s own moniker was 'James Bond', while Deutschlandfunk reports that another athlete went by the pseudonym of 'Bin Laden'.
"Yes, you had to come up with a cover name. And if you had just seen all the James Bond films at the time, then it came, 'Yes, I'll take James Bond'," said Hondo, who explained that he paid around €25,000 for "three or four" blood withdrawals and transfusions.
"The doctor just comes in and then it starts. I mean, when you've been doing sports for so long, you’ve already had infusions for recovery or for pain. That's how you have to imagine it. Of course, you have a bad feeling because you don't want to be caught."
Hondo was a professional for 15 seasons, riding for squads including Telekom, Gerolsteiner, Tinkoff, Androni and Lampre, before finishing his career with Trek Factory Racing in 2014. The German served a one-year ban after testing positive for carphedon at the 2005 Vuelta a Murcia. He won two stages of the 2001 Giro d’Italia and landed the German road race title in 2002. He placed second behind Petacchi at Milan-San Remo in 2005.
During their three years together at Lampre, Hondo helped Petacchi to stage victories at the three Grand Tours, as well as the green jersey at the 2010 Tour de France, but the Italian sprinter was less successful in 2012 when his only victories came on three stages of the Bayern Rundfahrt. Petacchi has since been stripped of those wins.
Thus far, road riders from six countries – Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy – have been implicated in the Operation Aderlass.
Hondo, Stefan Denifl, Georg Preidler and Pirmin Lang have all confessed to blood doping, while Petacchi, Kristijan Durasek, Kristijan Koren and Borut Bozic have also received bans for the use of prohibited methods or substances as a result of the inquiry.
Austrian mountain biker Christina Kollmann-Forstner is serving a four-year ban following her implication in the inquiry.
On the basis of evidence amassed in Operation Aderlass, the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation retested more than 800 blood and urine samples (over half of them from 2016 and 2017), though no positives were recorded. In a statement last month, the CADF said that it wished "to make it clear that although no adverse analytical finding (AAF) has been reported at this stage, there is no final conclusion to be drawn from the reanalysis".
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