28 February 2019

Austrian and German police smash doping network

Five athletes and four alleged members of a criminal network have been arrested after coordinated police raids in Austria and Germany conducted at the Nordic Skiing World Championships, which are currently taking place in Seefeld, Austria. Those arrested include five athletes, three of which were named at a press conference conducted by Austria’s Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt, or BK) yesterday, and one of whom was caught red handed whilst conducting a blood transfusion.

Those arrested included two Austrian athletes, two Estonian athletes and one Kazakh athlete. Two members of the criminal group were also arrested in Seefeld, and a ’40 year old sports physician, Dr. Mark S.’, and an accomplice were arrested in Germany, outlined the BK in a statement.

“As the Austrian Ski Federation confirmed, it is our own athletes, the two cross-country skiers Dominik Baldauf and Max Hauke, who took sixth place in the team sprint”, said Dieter Csefan at the BK press conference, reports ARD’s Sportschau. “Apparently, even the Kazakh Alexey Poltoranin, who did not attend the 15km classic in the afternoon as planned, was among those arrested […] At the athlete apartment opened by the special forces, one of the athletes was apprehended with a blood transfusion in his arm and was arrested.”

In a statement, the Estonian Ski Association (ESA) confirmed that Karel Tammjärv and Andreas Veerpalu are the athletes alleged to be involved. Tammjärv and Veerpalu represented Estonia at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. Poltoranin has six World Cup wins and represented Kazakhstan at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. 

“According to the investigative authorities, there are no hints that ÖSV coaches are involved in this doping case”, said Peter Schröcksnadel, President of the Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV). “I will advise the executive committee to totally reorganise the cross-country sports in the ÖSV after this season”.

The international ski federation (FIS) said that the arrests were the result of a ‘surprise’ raid under national legislation, which criminalises doping in sport. It is understood that investigations by Austrian and German police are ongoing. 

‘WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations Department has been providing information and other assistance to the authorities in the course of their operation’, read a statement from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). ‘This latest cooperation with Austrian law enforcement follows a WADA investigation into activities of the International Biathlon Union [IBU], which last year resulted in the initiation of a criminal investigation by police in Austria and Norway’. 

In December, five Russian biathletes and five coaches were charged as a result of an April raid at the IBU headquarters, due to allegations made against IBU officials. That raid led to the resignation of IBU President Anders Besseberg and Secretary General Nicole Resch, who are still under investigation by police due to allegations that doping cases were covered up in return for bribes.

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