Stefan Denifl’s defence lawyer has claimed “in cycling there is 90 per cent doping” as the Austrian pro stands trial over his own blood doping.
Denifl, who formerly raced for Aqua Blue Sport and IAM Cycling, is on trial in Austria accused of serious sporting fraud after he used the banned performance enhancing method.
The 32-year-old, winner of a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2018, is accused of misleading sponsors and organisers by doping between 2014 and 2018. Denifl has been banned by the UCI and has admitted blood doping, but denies the fraud charge, Austrian news website Tirol.Orf reports.
Speaking in court, Denifl said “I am not a criminal” and added “I wouldn’t have got a contract without doping.”
Denifl was implicated in Operation Aderlass, a police investigation into blood doping in Germany and Austria that originated in endurance skiing and eventually hit the cycling world.
Raids by police in February 2019 threw up evidence linking cyclists to the scandal, with Denifl reportedly confessing to police that he had used the prohibited method after being arrested. Denifl was not riding with a team at the time, having stepped away from a contract with CCC Team in December for “personal reasons.”
Fellow Austrian Georg Preidler also quit WorldTour team Groupama-FDJ in March last year after he too was implicated in the long-running doping scheme which has seen a number of other riders and former professionals provisionally banned.
Both Preidler and Denifl have been banned for four years by the UCI.
Preidler is also charged with sport fraud over his doping and is accused of defrauding his team after blood doping and regularly taking growth hormones from the 2017 Giro d’Italia up until he left the squad in early 2019.
He has admitted blood doping but denies ever taking performance enhancing substances.
Last month he told a court in Austria he became involved in doping “out of pure curiosity.”
The investigation centres around the German doctor Mark Schmidt, with whom Denifl communicated with using a prepaid mobile phone from 2016.
Schmidt has been charged by German authorities in connection with the doping scandal but he has yet to comment on the allegations.
Denifl’s lawyer told the court: “He ruined his health and sometimes ran races at the risk of his life.
“In cycling there is 90 per cent doping. There is no super clean athlete.”
According to the prosecution, Denifl’s doping caused damages of around €580,000 (£490,000) in bonuses and team fees.
The case, being held at the regional court in Innsbruck, Austria, was adjourned until a later date so more witnesses can be interviewed.