Austrian World Cup speed skier and 2015 super-G World Champion, Hannes Reichelt, 38, has been questioned by police in relation to an ongoing investigation into a blood-doping ring.
Known as “Operation Aderlass,” the investigation began when Austrian cross-country athlete, Johannes Duerr, named Dr. Mark Schmidt as the head of a blood-doping operation based in Germany in mid-February. Nine individuals, including five cross-country athletes, were arrested during raids at the 2019 Nordic World Championships in Seefeld, Austria. Several other locations in Germany were raided later that month.
Reichelt’s connection to the scandal reportedly stems from his relationship with cross-country coach Gerald Heigl, who was implicated in the doping ring by Duerr.
“Gerald went to school with me and is a good friend of mine,” Reichelt said in a statement from the Austrian Ski Federation. “Since 2005, Gerald has written training plans for me and in the last two years we have also trained a few times together. All I can say is that Gerald never mentioned doping to me and it was never an issue.”
Doping in alpine skiing is relatively rare when compared to cross-country. In fact, there have only been three confirmed cases of illegal substances being used by alpine athletes. Frenchwoman Christelle Guignard tested positive after the 1989 World Championships and was stripped of a bronze medal in giant slalom and suspended for one year. British skier Alain Baxter tested positive for methamphetamines after using an American nasal inhaler that differed from the UK version of the same brand, causing him to be stripped of his slalom bronze medal from the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. In 2004, another Austrian, Hans Knauss, tested positive for steroids. Knauss was suspended for 18 months and subsequently retired. Knauss was later cleared of the charges after a contaminated dietary supplement was proven to have caused the positive test.
“I can only say for myself that I have never taken illicit remedies,” Reichelt continued. “On Friday it pulled the ground from under my feet and it is not easy for the family either. I was looking forward to a great family time and now I have to justify myself for something I’ve never done.”
Reichelt also serves as the alpine representative to the FIS Athlete Committee, a position he has held since 2015.
In total, 21 athletes across eight different sports have been implicated in Operation Aderlass.