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Alessandro Petacchi among four more riders to be suspended in Austrian blood doping scandal

Joe Robinson
15 May 2019

UCI suspend riders involved in Operation Aderlass investigation following investigation

The UCI has notified four further riders, including 22-time Giro d'Italia stage winner Alessandro Petacchi, of potential Anti-Doping Rules Violations based on information received from the ongoing Austrian blood doping investigation.

Current WorldTour riders Kristijan Durasek (UAE-Team Emirates) and Koren Kristijan (Bahrain-Merida), alongside former pro-turned-Bahrain Merida sports director Bozic Borut, join Pettachi as the latest names to be tied to Operation Aderlass.

All four riders have been provisionally suspended with immediate effect, with the UCI confirming this in a statement on Wednesday 15th May.

'Based on information received from the law enforcement authorities of Austria, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has notified the following individuals of potential Anti-Doping Rules Violations (ADRV): Bozic Borut, Kristijan Durasek, Kristijan Korean and Alessandro Petacchi,' read the statement. 

'The UCI has also provisionally suspended the above-mentioned individuals pursuant to Article 7.9.3 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules,

'The UCI and 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, have been in close contact with the sport and state authorities involved in the Aderlass investigation, in particular with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Austrian law enforcement authorities.'

The criminal investigation centres around former Team Milram doctor Dr Mark Schmidt, who is alleged to have helped blood dope various professional athletes across a multitude of sports including cycling.

Initially, former Austrian cyclist Stefan Denifl was arrested by police in connection to the investigation before Gregor Preidler then confessed to withdrawing blood with Schmidt with the intention of blood doping in the future.

Last weekend, former German cyclist Danilo Hondo confessed to paying Dr Schmidt €30,000 for his blood doping services in 2011-2013 while riding for Lampre-ISD. Hondo admitted to using Slovenian and Croatian phone numbers to contact Schmidt to organise blood transfusions during the time.

Hondo was subsequently sacked from his role as a coach at the Swiss Cycling Federation.

Petacchi, who was then a teammate of Hondo at Lampre, was also implemented at the same time as Hondo via a  joint investigation by Le Monde and Corriere della Sera.

Petacchi initially denied claims, telling Corriere della Sera 'I’ve never had a blood transfusion. I’ve no idea why my name appears in this dossier,' however it now seems as if enough evidence has been gained to formally suspend the 45-year-old.

The UCI statement also confirmed the dates of the alleged Anti-Doping Rules Violations with Petacchi's coming in 2012-13, the same as Koren and Borut. 

During that period, Petacchi's only victories were three stages of the Bayern Rundfahrt, while Koren took a stage of the Tour of Slovenia and Borut finished second at Gent-Wevelgem.  

Durasek is alleged to have committed his ADRV in 2017, the year in which he won the Queen's stage of the Tour of Croatia.

UAE-Team Emirates are yet to confirm whether Durasek, who was racing the Tour of California, is to be suspended from the team however Bahrain-Merida have already released a statement to confirm that both Borut and Koren have been suspended from the team.

The suspension of Koren will also be the second active Bahrain-Merida rider to be charged with doping offences in the past 12 months after Belarussian Kanstantin Siutsou tested positive for EPO in 2018.

Koren's suspension will also mean he is unable to continue in the ongoing Giro d'Italia. This makes the second rider in as many days to be withdrawn by their team after Juan-Sebastian Molano was suspended by his UAE-Team Emirates side for returning 'unusual physiological results'.

Photo credit: Riccardo Gallini