It has now been almost two years since criminal investigators uncovered a blood doping network around the Erfurt sports doctor Mark Schmidt in the “Operation Aderlass”.
It all started on the sidelines of the Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld, and when the investigators subsequently started to question witnesses and accused, they also presented a few photos during the interviews.
The purpose of the exercise: to find out whether one of the people pictured might also belong to the network. The photo collection comprised 30 to 40 pictures, and surprisingly there were two very prominent names among them – two of the best cyclists in the world. One was Primoz Roglic and the other was the Tom Dumoulin.
So what’s behind that? So far there is no concrete evidence that both belonged to Schmidt’s network or were guilty of another doping offense. The Innsbruck prosecutor’s office, which is responsible for the “Aderlass operation” on the Austrian side, announced on request that the athletes in the preliminary proceedings would be “neither listed as accused nor as witnesses”.
The Jumbo team said neither Dumoulin nor Roglic had ever had contact with Schmidt or any other accused person in his vicinity, and neither the cyclists nor the team had been contacted by an investigative authority.
The criminal investigators do not want to explain how they put their database together. “Information on whether or why which questions were asked during interrogations during the preliminary investigation,” they say. On the other hand, some pieces of the puzzle can be found from the various Austrian proceedings against individual Schmidt clients as well as 22 days of trial in Schmidt’s proceedings before the Munich district court. One of the most important things is probably an admission by the former Austrian cyclist Georg Preidler.
The 30-year-old was one of the quiet forces of the peloton for many years, first with the Team Subweb, then with Groupama-FDJ. Preidler was one of those athletes who admitted on their own in spring 2019 that they had used Schmidt’ service.
In this context he made a handwritten confession: “This is the complete truth about the practices in elite sport,” it begins, “which was taught to me by shady characters whom I should never have met.”
Preidler also reported on an incident from 2017 when he was still racing for Sunweb, like Dumoulin. The team’s top riders moved to the high-altitude training camp in the spring; Preidler also wanted, he was even ready to do this at his own expense. His team, however, vehemently refused. The scorned wondered a lot about it – and about the fact that the rideres involved slipped into an incredibly formidable form after the high altitude training camp. Shortly thereafter, Dumoulin won the Giro.
Primoz Roglic also aroused Preidler’s amazement: Schmidt filtered blood bags in a Slovenian blood bank in 2018, the confession said, and it occurred to him how quickly some Slovenian cyclists had become so good.
“I never understood how you can go from ski jumper to winner on a grand tour,” he stated – a reference to Roglic’s amazing results over the past few years.