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Wednesday April 24, 2024

Austrian court sentences doping scandal whistleblower

By AFP
January 29, 2020

VIENNA: An Austrian court on Monday handed down a suspended prison sentence to a former cross-country skier, who lifted the lid on a huge multinational doping network.

Johannes Duerr, already banned for life by the Austrian anti-doping authorities, was given a 15-month suspended sentence by the Innsbruck court. The 32-year-old was also fined 720 euros ($790) after pleading partly guilty to charges of “serious sports fraud” related to doping, as well as facilitating doping of other athletes.

The Austrian will also have to pay back 52,000 euros gained through the sports fraud. Duerr confessed to doping live on German television in January last year, sparking the so-called “Operation Aderlass” that has engulfed numerous athletes in the world of skiing and cycling.

Charged together with Duerr was former Austrian Ski Federation (OeSV) cross-country ski trainer Gerald Heigl, who got a 12-month suspended sentence and was fined 3,120 euros.

Duerr, who has blamed the system surrounding athletes for his crimes, had admitted in court to blood doping — first with the help of former OeSV trainer Walter Mayer, who was charged last week, and later with the German doctor Mark Schmidt.

According to German public prosecutor investigating “Aderlass” — German for “blood letting” — Schmidt is suspected of having facilitated blood doping for at least 21 athletes of eight nationalities and across five different sports.

Duerr also admitted passing growth hormones to his colleague at the time, Harald Wurm, from the German doctor. Wurm was also charged earlier this month. Duerr has denied, however, connecting two other skiers, Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf, to the German doctor — as they have said in their witness statements.

Baldauf was given a five-month suspended prison sentence earlier this month, which he said he would appeal, after being found guilty of doping. Hauke, who was caught on camera apparently carrying out a blood transfusion when caught by police in an “Aderlass” raid last February, was given a suspended sentence last year.

Heigl has denied leading Duerr to dope, but has admitted supporting Duerr and Wurm in doping and giving them growth hormones. Duerr and Heigl said they would accept the verdicts and not appeal them. In October, Duerr was banned for life by Austria’s anti-doping authorities for doping offences, including supplying other athletes with banned substances.