Doping: German doctor accused of masterminding network admits to 'hobby' doping

Schmidt (second left) arrives with his lawyers for the start of his trial on Sept 16, 2020 in Munich.
Schmidt (second left) arrives with his lawyers for the start of his trial on Sept 16, 2020 in Munich.PHOTO: AFP

MUNICH (AFP) - A German doctor accused of masterminding an international blood-doping network dismantled last year admitted on Tuesday (Sept 29) to helping athletes undergo transfusions to boost performance.

In a statement read by his lawyers, sports physician Mark Schmidt said he had started to aid individuals in 2012 but refrained from disclosing specific names.

He claimed he made no financial profit from the process but asked for €5,000 (S$8,000) a year for his services and also asked for result-based bonuses.

"Why did I decide to practice blood doping, I don't remember anymore. Doping has to be done these days if you want to succeed," they said.

"In the end I never made money from it, I always saw it as a hobby."

He is accused of helping skiers and cyclists from eight countries including six-time Tour de France stage winner Alessandro Petacchi.

Schmidt was one of several arrested in Germany as part of Operation "Aderlass" - or "blood letting" in German - which involved raids at the Nordic world skiing championships in Austria in February 2019.

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

One Austrian athlete was caught undergoing a blood transfusion.

As part of Aderlass, Austrian cyclist Georg Preidler was given a 12-month suspended sentence for sports fraud by a court in Innsbruck in July.

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

This is the first major prosecution under anti-doping legislation introduced in Germany in 2015.

If found guilty, Schmidt and his co-defendants could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The trial is expected to finish by Dec 21.