There has, in the last couple of days, been a development in the investigation into what is colloquially known as “Operation Aderlass.” For the uninitiated, that might sound more like the plot of a Bond movie than something existing in real life, but real it is. Much like a Bond movie, it does involve world-class athletes performing inhuman feats of athleticism and (obligatorily for a Bond film) a mad scientist as the villain of the story.
“Aderlass” is German for “blood-letting” or “bleeding” and, over the last two years, it has become something of a pariah for the sporting world. The story begins in Germany, in the city of Erfurt, with a physician named Mark Schmidt, who had, for several years, operated as the team doctor for cycling teams “Gerolsteiner” and “Milram.” In 2008, Gerolsteiner rider Bernhard Kohl was caught doping and accused Schmidt of overseeing the procedure. Schmidt denied the allegations.
More than ten years later, in February 2019, Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Durr was also found guilty of doping and also pointed the finger at Schmidt, calling the doping project he was operating “systemic.” Following these allegations, the doping task force of the Munich Police Department conducted a raid on Schmidt’s Erfurt offices in February 2019, finding a multitude of drug paraphernalia used for blood transfusions and other means of doping. In the wake of this raid, the Bavarian state prosecutors confirmed that a total of 21 professional athletes from across a variety of sporting disciplines were under suspicion of involvement with Mark Schmidt and his illegal transfusions.
The investigation is ongoing, with many athletes from the skiing and cycling worlds being exposed as dopers under the facilitation of Mr Schmidt and serving bans. The allegations keep piling up and the investigation is still ongoing. Jumbo-Visma riders Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumolin have both had photos used as a part of the ongoing investigation in recent days and have both vehemently denied implication in the scandal. German paper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” report that the two men appeared in a large line-up of between 30 and 40 photos that were shown to people who were being questioned as part of the investigation.
The Jumbo-Visma team insist that they have never been contacted by Munich police or any other body involved with the investigation. Dumolin and Roglic also deny any involvement with the investigation and say that they too have never been contacted regarding it. It is impossible to know what degree to which, if at all, the two riders are suspected participants in Mark Schmidt’s doping program, but any attachment of two of the biggest and most successful names in cycling is sure to raise an eyebrow or two. One can only hope that two of the sports brightest stars are not involved, but only time will tell.