15 cases were revealed since the beginning of the year, with 7 of them involving pro riders, in only 6 months. These are the worst results since 2014 – since MPCC (Mouvement pour un cyclisme credible) started accounting doping and corruption cases.
While this is clearly nowhere near the level of doping that existed in the pro-peloton during the late nineties and the noughties, it does mean that cycling has the 4th largest number of doping cases this year out of any sport.
At the end of 2018, cycling was in 13th position.
Weightlifting, baseball and track and field were the only sports with more cases.
These results are partly the consequence of a German police investigation led in Austria: Operation Aderlass.
This operation involved 7 cases and it shed a light on very modern techniques of – sometimes hard – doping (blood transfusions).
Operation Aderlass (Which translates as Operation Bloodletting) is the name given to an investigation into alleged doping practices carried out by Erfurt-based German physician Mark Schmidt.
The case first came to light after cross-country skier Johannes Dürr confessed in late February 2019.
He named Mark Schmidt, a physician based in the German city of Erfurt, as the head of an operation which carried out systematic blood doping.
Only a few days ago we reported that Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who won Milan-Sanremo and the points jersey in all three Grand Tours, had been handed a two-year ban for blood doping.
The retired Italian sprinter became the highest profile rider sanctioned as a result of the Austro-German blood doping investigation, Operation Aderlass.
Back in March 2019, Stefan Denifl, who last rode for the Aqua Blue Sport team, confessed to using blood doping under the assistance of Schmidt. Denifl won a memorable victory on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana in 2017.
Georg Preidler, riding for Groupama–FDJ at the time, also confessed to having had two blood extractions with Schmidt in late 2018, but denied having actually doped.
Both Denifl and Preidler were provisionally suspended by the UCI and then handed four-year bans by the Austrian anti-doping organisation in June 2019
The 15 case that occurred in 2019, affect three countries in particular: Colombia (4), Slovenia (3) and Austria (3).
13 of the doping cases were road cyclists, one was on the track and one was in BMX.
Five of the road cycling cases were at World Tour Level.
This is not to say that cycling is facing a return to the “dark days” of 2004, when David Millar confessed to using EPO.
In that year there were 26 cases involving fairly high profile riders such as Tyler Hamilton and Danilo de Luca.
The figures for 2019 come directly from the MPCC and can be viewed on their website.