(ATR) Nine arrests were made at the ongoing 2019 Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria while five more were arrested in a coordinated raid in Erfurt, Germany.
The hotel where two Austrian athletes were arrested (Getty Images)
Austrian Federal Police said in a statement that the raids were part of an effort to bust an “Erfurt-based criminal group [that] is strongly suspected of having been doping top athletes for years to increase their performance in domestic and international competitions, thereby gaining illegal revenues”.
Police raids on dopers in Austria are not uncommon, and most recently authorities raided the International Biathlon Union headquarters in Salzburg as part of a sting into Russian doping. The Austrian cross country ski team was raided during the 2006 Winter Olympics in neighboring Italy.
A doctor from Germany is suspected to be the head of the criminal conspiracy according to Austrian officers.
Of the five athletes arrested during the 2019 World Championships, two are from Austria, two come from Kazkhstan, and one from Estonia. Two Austrian “police athletes,” were arrested in Seefeld as well. The arrests in Germany were of sport physician Mark Schmidt and an accomplice. Numerous houses were searched as part of the raid.
The group headed by Schmidt reportedly had been engaging in a blood doping scheme to increase performance in international competitions, which would increase prize money. One of the athletes arrested in the rain was “picked up with a blood transfusion in his arms,” according to Dieter Csefan a Federal Criminal Police officer quoted by the Austrian Press Agency.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) said in a statement that it was “working closely with the Austrian public authorities,” and would follow-up on any case in accordance to federation anti-doping rules.
“As part of the briefing, the authorities stated that the arrests were part of a wide, long-term, investigation into a doping operation by a German Sports Medicine doctor involving multiple sports, ‘on suspicion of commercial sport fraud and the use of illicit substances and methods of doping purposes.’,” FIS said in a statement.
The World Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement that "has been in close communication" with Austrian and German authorities throughout the raid.
"The raids were part of a wider police operation targeting criminals from a number of European countries, and WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations Department has been providing information and other assistance to the authorities in the course of their operation," a WADA spokesperson added.
Written by Aaron Bauer
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