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Austrian duo Denifl and Preidler confess to blood doping

Denifl confesses blood doping to police while Preidler claims he had blood withdrawn but never reinfused

Joe Robinson
4 Mar 2019

Vuelta a Espana stage winner Stefan Denifl has confessed to blood doping during his career, according to Austrian media sources.

Reports in Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung and broadcaster ORF reported that Denifl had confessed to blood doping and had subsequently been released from custody. It also claimed that the 31-year-old is likely to face a criminal charge for sporting fraud. This charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three years in Austria.

The questioning of Denifl was part of a wider operation from Austrian police that saw the arresting of five athletes at the Nordic Ski World Championships being held in Seefeld, Austria.

Denifl was currently out of contract following the folding of Aqua Blue Sport at the back end of 2018. He had signed a contract with WorldTour team CCC Team for 2019 but it was confirmed on Christmas Eve that this had been terminated by mutual consent.

The Austrian never raced for CCC Team although was assessed by the team's medical staff before signing the initial contract. Team manager Jim Ochowicz told Cyclingnews that this testing did not raise any 'red flags' and that his biological passport looked to be in order.

'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,' said Ochowicz.

'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. He never came to camp, never set foot on anything we did.'

Denifl's biggest win came at the 2017 Vuelta when he took a summit stage finish atop the Los Machucos climb, solo. Before his time at Aqua Blue, the Austrian had also for Leopard-Trek, Vacansoleil and IAM Cycling.

Since the Denifl discovery over the weekend, fellow Austrian cyclist and Groupama-FDJ rider George Preidler confessed to Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung that he had blood taken with the eventual intention of blood doping, but never returned to complete the process.

In this surprise confession, Preidler stated that blood doping was 'not much effort' and that he was pushed to such measures due to worries about securing a contract.

The 28-year-old also spoke about reassurances from medical staff that he would not be caught during the process and that guilt had led to speaking out. 

Groupama-FDJ have confirmed that Preidler has resigned from the team.

The UCI has also responded to the information in a press release, stating 'The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is aware of the revelations of an investigation carried out by Austrian authorities and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) within the sport of cross-country skiing,'

'As it was not implicated in this investigation, which was not aimed at cycling, the UCI does not have any first-hand information concerning confessions made by cyclists. The UCI has asked the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the UCI to define and lead the anti-doping testing strategy and investigations in our sport, to request the cooperation of the Austrian authorities and WADA to ensure all information directly or indirectly concerning cycling is handed over without delay.

'The UCI will also ask the CADF to offer any assistance that could help the investigation.'

Preidler's confession could also be down to a current Austrian police sting that made multiple arrests at the Nordic Ski Championships following the investigation of German sports doctor Mark Schmidt. 

Schmidt was team doctor of the former Gerolsteiner team during the period in which both Bernhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher tested positive. The former then confirmed the doctor oversaw the doping practices of the team despite Schmidt denying the claims.

This recent push from the Austrian police also provided the shocking images of Austrian cross-country skier Max Hauke being allegedly caught on camera by police mid-blood transfusion.

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