Austrian Doctor Receives Four-Year Sentence In Doping Trial

Aderlass Denifl

Senior figures in German sport on Friday welcomed the prison sentence handed to the doctor at the centre of the "Aderlass" international blood-doping trial in Munich after the first major test of Germany's anti-doping laws.

Dr Mark Schmidt, 42, has been sentenced to four years, 10 months for masterminding an international blood doping ring between 2012 and 2019.

"Finally we are seeing a verdict that includes draconian penalties for those cheating in sport," said Alfons Hoermann, president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, after the verdict.

Schmidt has also received an additional ban from practising medicine for a further three years and was fined 158,000 euros ($191,821).

Dagmar Freitag, chairwoman of the German government's sports committee, hopes Schmidt's sentence acts as a deterrent.

"The criminal networks have now been made unmistakably aware that serious doping offences can be punished with a not inconsiderable prison term," said Freitag.

Schmidt has been found guilty of 24 counts of using doping methods and two counts of forbidden use of medicinal drugs.

"You are the head of, what I now call, a 'doping system'," presiding judge Marion Tischler said in Munich.

She described how Schmidt had administered a drug not approved for humans on a female athlete in a "human experiment" which was "beyond any ethical standards".

The trial, which started last September, is the first major prosecution under anti-doping legislation introduced in Germany in 2015.

Blood doping is aimed at boosting the red blood cells, which allows the body to transport more oxygen to muscles, increasing stamina and performance.

'Baptism Of Fire'

"It's a harsh sentence, but just right," sports law expert Michael Lehner told AFP subsidiary SID.

"The anti-doping law has passed its baptism of fire."

Two of Schmidt's four co-defendants were each given suspended sentences of two years, four months and one year, four months.

The other two, one of whom is Schmidt's father, were given fines of 6,560 euros and 9,900 euros.

In court last week, Schmidt expressed remorse, "I took a wrong turn, it's all my fault," and regrets involving his four co-defendants: "I am infinitely sorry that I dragged the other four into it".

Tischler noted Schmidt's cooperation in handing over a Slovenian mobile phone, "a massive help, without which the trial would not have taken place in this form".

Schmidt has been in custody since Austrian and German police swooped during coordinated raids in February 2019, as part of Operation Aderlass - 'Blood-letting' in German.

The raids included a swoop on the 2019 Nordic World Skiing Championships in Seefeld, Tirol.

Five athletes and two suspects were detained at the championships, two hours before the start of the men's 15km cross-country event.

One Austrian athlete was caught undergoing a blood transfusion.

Schmidt was arrested at the same time during raids in Erfurt, central Germany, where he is based.

Initially, the list of events affected by Schmidt's blood doping ring was impressive, including the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro summer Olympics and 2018 Tour de France.

On Tuesday, Austrian cyclist Stefan Denifl became the latest athlete jailed due to the smashing of the Aderlass ring, when he received a two-year sentence, 16 months of which will be suspended.

However, contrary to what anti-doping authorities had hoped for, no big names from the sporting world were revealed during the trial, which was often interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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