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David Millar: Blood doping cases a reminder for cycling not to get complacent

Joe Robinson
8 Mar 2019

Two Austrian cyclists have admitted to blood doping offences during their career yet neither were caught by anti-doping authorities

Former pro David Millar believes the recent blood doping confessions of Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler are a timely reminder for cycling not to get complacent about doping.

Former Aqua Blue Sport rider Denifl admitted to Austrian police on Sunday that he had used blood transfusions during his career. Later that day, fellow Austrlan pro Preidler confessed to withdrawing blood with the intention of reinfusing it to enhance performance.

Both confessions come as a result of 'Operation Aderlass', an investigation into the practices of sports doctor Mark Schmidt. Austrian police have made a serious of arrests in the wake of the investigation, including five athletes at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, last week.

Footage has emerged online of young Austrian cross-country skier Max Hauke being caught on camera by police while self-administering a blood transfusion in his hotel room.

Worryingly, none of the athletes arrested had actually failed a drug test or been flagged over their biological passport – a digital record of an athlete's blood and urine levels over time designed to show up anomalies.

Talking to Cyclist at the launch of the new CHPT3 Brompton, Millar believes that this very fact will give cycling and anti-doping the reminder to keep pace with the science.

'It's a reminder of where we come from, as a sport, and that it's very easy to fall back to where we once were,' said Millar.

'It will also, rightfully so, act as the reminder for cycling not to get complacent and that the science behind anti-doping has to keep up. It's when we get complacent that people start to turn to doping again.' 

One of those picked up in the recent Austrian raids was Estonian skier Karel Tammjärv. In a candid interview, Tammjärv explained that avoiding detection for blood doping was actually quite easy.

'Blood was given to me each morning before the race and the blood was taken again immediately after the race,' he admitted.

'So there would be no trace for the doping control officers, I was told.'

Tammjärv, Denifl and Preidler are only facing the repercussions of their actions due to the work of Austrian police rather than doping authorities. Doping is illegal in Austria, which means the police can push to prosecute athletes, doctors and coaches, and more easily gather evidence.

The situation is not dissimilar to how Millar himself was caught doping in 2004. He too didn't fail a doping test but had been connected to an investigation by French police into the Cofidis team, at which point he confessed to having used EPO.

The fact that two doping incidents 15 years apart came as a result of police investigations and confessions, rather than failed positive tests, comes as no surprise to Millar.

'Again, it's the police that have found this. It's the external forces like journalists and governments that are pushing and finding these things out,' said Millar.

'And I've said it before but we need to start putting pressure on the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to do more because they do not do enough.'

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