Austrian cyclist Stefan Denifl was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for his part in Operation Aderlass, the international doping ring which was uncovered in 2019. Andreas Stutter, vice-president of Innsbruck regional court, confirmed the sentence for “aggravated sports fraud” to reporters this week. He said that both defense and prosecutors would have three days to appeal the verdict.
Denifl, 33, had admitted doping in previous court hearings in February 2020 but denied the charges of fraud, insisting he had fulfilled all his contracts. However, the court found that he had effectively defrauded his team through his use of doping tactics. As well as a prison sentence he was handed a fine of $424,000.
In 2019 Austria’s anti-doping agency banned Denifl from competing for four years after his role in the Aderlass ring came to light. Austria’s courts have already handed down several other sentences to those involved in the Aderlass operation.
Ex-skier Johannes Duerr, whose doping confessions in a documentary aired by German broadcaster ARD helped trigger the probes into Aderlass, was given a 15-month suspended sentence for doping in January 2020. Skiers Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf and cyclist Georg Preidler have also received prison sentences.
The investigation burst into the open in February 2019 when Austrian police mounted a spectacular raid on the Nordic World Skiing Championships in Austria’s Tyrol province. Five athletes were arrested at the scene.
At the same time, the German doctor accused of masterminding the ring, Mark Schmidt, was arrested in the German city of Erfurt. He went on trial in September 2020 in Munich with the verdict expected on Friday. Prosecutors have recommended he receive a five-and-a-half year prison sentence and be suspended from practising medicine for five years.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini