Frascati (Italy) – Former Italian rider Alessandro Petacchi, one of the sprint kings of the 2000s, is suspected of having used blood doping by the German doctor Mark Schmidt, at the center of Operation Aderlass .
According to two daily newspapers, Italian (Corriere della Sera) and French (Le Monde), which quotesconcordant sources", the investigators blame Petacchi for having performed autologous blood transfusions during the seasons 2012 and 2013.
This practice is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Code and falls under the criminal offense in Italy, says Le Monde. It involves injecting one's own blood previously collected in order to increase the number of red blood cells in the body and thus improve oxygen transport.
Dr. Schmidt, who was arrested on February 27 at his office in Erfurt, Germany, is at the center of a blood doping network involving several sports.
"I have never been to his office in Germany or elsewhere. I have never had a blood transfusion. And I do not know why my name appears in this filePetacchi reacted, questioned Tuesday by the Corriere della Sera after the arrival at Frascati of the 4th stage of the Giro, which he follows as a consultant for the Italian public television (RAI).
"I discovered that this Mark Schmidt was a doctor of the Milram team when I was running there. Maybe he followed the German athletes: I have never seen or known him", said the former rider, winner of 22 stages of the Giro, 20 of the Vuelta and 6 of the Tour de France between 2000 and 2011.
In cycling, two Austrian riders, Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler, were involved in the Aderlass operation. As well as the German retired Danilo Hondo, who worked with Petacchi for three years in the Lampre team (2010 to 2012) and was dismissed from his coaching position by the Swiss team after his confession revealed Sunday.
In his career that ended in 2015, Petacchi was sanctioned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and suspended for one year for a positive test for salbutamol in the 2007 Giro, above the ceiling authorized for this substance.
The Erfurt network was dismantled on the sidelines of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld (Austria) at the end of February. The case began in late January, with the televised confession of Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Dürr on the German public broadcaster ARD.
On March 20, the Munich public prosecutor's office said that at the time of the investigation, 21 athletes of 8 different nationalities and five sports were involved in the scandal.