The investigation into an international blood doping ring based in Germany has sparked a second confession from a cyclist, with Austria’s Georg Preidler of the French Groupama-FDJ team reportedly confessing to having his blood extracted for a possible transfusion.
According to the Kronen Zeiting newspaper in Austria, Preidler confessed to Austrian police on Sunday and explained that he "could not live with this secret anymore".
Preidler was due to ride the Classic de l'Ardèche Rhône Crussol at the weekend but was replaced by Romain Seigle, with Groupama-FDJ saying he was sick. He apparently terminated his contract with the team on Sunday in an email, with Groupama-FDJ revealing he admitted to having his blood drawn on two occasions late in 2018.
The French WorldTour team said they had contacted the UCI, French police, the AFLD French Anti-Doping Agency and the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC). "We deplore this case but retain confidence in the members of the squad and will always remain uncompromising in matters of ethics," read a statement from the team.
Over the weekend it emerged that Stefan Denifl also confessed to blood doping after being questioned 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.
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Schmidt was previously a doctor at the Gerolsteiner and Milram cycling team. He was accused of doping by Bernard Kohl when the Austrian rider was caught in 2008 but was cleared after a trial. German police reportedly found 40 bags of blood stored in a garage and arrested Schmidt at his surgery in Erfurt and suggested athletes from different sports were involved.
"I made a doping confession. I had my blood taken out but never put it back. But the thought and the fraudulent intent are already a crime," Preidler admitted to Kronen Zeiting in an interview.
"The last few days were a nightmare. I didn’t sleep and didn’t eat. I didn’t know if I would have been convicted. I don’t know how and if this doping doctor has encrypted everything. But I could not live with this secret anymore.
"It was certainly the biggest mistake of my life. I have to apologise to anyone who feels cheated now. I am sorry."
Cracked under pressure
Preidler has raced at WorldTour level since 2013, riding for the Giant-Shimano team now known as Sunweb before joining Groupama-FDJ for the 2018 season. He is a three-time Austrian time trial champion and won his first road race at last year’s Tour de Pologne.
Preidler claimed that he had always raced clean but was approached to try blood doping and cracked under the pressure to perform.
"These people come up to you, pick you. All my results were clean. I was good without doping, I never did any trick. That makes it interesting," he said.
"You always have the pressure to perform, you chase contracts and worry about your job. At some point, the inhibition threshold disappears. These doctors will give you the assurance that you will never be caught. You know it's a scam, but you play along.
"You train day after day, but you are never first, and at some point you want more. Blood doping does not need much of an effort."
Preidler claimed he did not know the names of other athletes and cyclists who might have worked with Dr. Schmidt but predicted the investigation could widen.
"The coming weeks will be tough for me," Preidler said. "I don’t know the names of other athletes but I can imagine that there will be an international earthquake."