CCC Team general manager Jim Ochowicz has told Cyclingnews that the team's medical assessment of Stefan Denifl's UCI biological passport showed 'no red flags.' According to reports in the Austrian media, Denifl confessed to blood doping in a police interview and could face prosecution through the country's legal system. A jail sentence for sporting fraud could carry a sentence of three years.
Denifl has not made a public statement to date and it's unclear from the reports in Kronen Zeitung as to which years the rider is alleged to have broken anti-doping rules. His career lasted over a decade with contracts at Leopard Trek, Vacansoleil, IAM Cycilng and most recently Aqua Blue Sport between 2017 and 2018.
At the end of 2018, following the demise of Aqua Blue Sport, Denifl agreed terms with Ochowicz's CCC Team. A press release was issued on October 24 with Ochowicz stating:
"Stefan Denifl is a great addition to CCC Team so it is a pleasure to welcome him to the team in 2019. Stefan brings a wealth of experience to the team and will be an asset at the Ardennes classics and the hillier Monuments, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia. We are looking forward to seeing what Stefan can do next year and we are excited to welcome the first rider from Austria, which is a key market for CCC, to the team."
Yet, on Sunday morning as news of Denifl's reported confession swept through the paddock at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Ochowicz told Cyclingnews that the Austrian never participated in any team functions or training camps and that his contract was dissolved before it even came into effect on January 1, 2019.
On December 23, at 22:54, CCC Team issued a statement declaring that Denifl's contract has been dissolved due to personal reasons. He was later replaced by another rider.
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"It never went anywhere. He said that he had some personal issues and so that was the end of it. He said that they were personal and with his family, so that's his business," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews in Kuurne.
"He said it had nothing to do with sport but to do with his family business. It was something with his wife, and then something with his father, and sister. I didn't ask a lot of questions. He said he wasn't able to do this [join the team]. So I said okay, fair enough."
Teams are not forced to check rider's biological passport data before signing them but they can request medical records from the rider which can be released by the UCI. Teams check the rider's values as a way of insuring the athlete's performances are in line. According to Ochowicz, his medical team found nothing suspicious with Denifl's data.
"That looked okay, sure. We wouldn't have signed him if there were any red flags. I met with him at the Worlds in Innsbruck. He wasn't selected for the Championships and he was free to come over. He had a good resume, and had won a couple of big races. He was a semi-climber, not expensive and someone that fit our selection because Austria is one of the countries that CCC does business in. We were looking for an Austrian actually," Ochowicz said. "He never came to camp, never set foot on anything we did."
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