Arrested skiers suspended after confessing to doping | News | DW | 02.03.2019
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Arrested skiers suspended after confessing to doping

Five cross-country skiers have been provisionally suspended after admitting they doped to Austrian authorities. They were arrested earlier this week as part of a larger investigation into a criminal doping network.

Cross-country skier Dominik Baldauf (picture alliance / GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / picturedesk.com)

Austrian Dominik Baldauf was one of the five skiers arrested

Five cross-country skiers arrested in connection with a criminal doping investigation have received provisional suspensions, the International Ski Federation (FIS) said on Friday.

The FIS said it suspended Estonia's Karel Tammjarv and Andreas Veerpalu and Kazakhstan's Alexey Poltoranian. The other two skiers, Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf of Austria, were suspended by the country's anti-doping agency.

The five skiers were detained on Wednesday along with four others after German and Austrian authorities conducted raids in Erfurt, a city in central Germany, and Seefeld in western Austria where this year's Nordic Skiing World Championships are taking place.

Austrian authorities said Hauke, 26, was "caught with a blood transfusion in his arm." All five have confessed to blood doping practices and have been released from custody.

"While the events of the last few days have shed a negative light on the sport, it also sends a clear signal that doping will not be tolerated by FIS and comes with very steep consequences," FIS president Gian Franco Kasper said.

"If there is a silver lining, I hope that this decisive action sends a clear message to other athletes and there will be severe personal, legal and sporting consequences against doping offenders."

Criminal doping network

At the center of the probe is a doctor named Mark Schmidt, who was arrested in Erfurt along with one of his associates. Two of Schmidt's other alleged accomplices were detained in Seefeld and face extradition to Germany in the coming days.

Austria's Federal Police Office said Wednesday that the raids targeted "a doping network operating worldwide." Investigators believe more than 40 blood bags were seized in Erfurt from the raids in an investigation that could go beyond skiing.

Munich prosecutors, handling the German side of the case, said that the probe was sparked by an interview given by Austrian skier Johannes Duerr to German Broadcaster ARD. Duerr said he used transfusions and erythropoietin (EPO), which is a banned substance, to boost his stamina, with regular treatments in Germany.

Both Austria and Germany have been aggressive in cracking down on doping, with Austria treating doping as a criminal matter in recent years. 

dv/bw (AP, dpa)

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