Marcel Kittel has responded to the blood doping revelations after his former team-mate was caught up in the scandal.
A police investigation into doping in endurance skiing has hit the professional peloton, as two Austrian riders have admitted their involvement.
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Former Aqua Blue Sport rider Stefan Denifl and Groupama-FDJ’s Georg Preidler have both been caught up in the scandal, which unravelled after police raids in Austria and Germany last week.
The UCI has taken the decision to provisionally suspend the two riders, as Kittel says the revelations “are a slap in the face to clean athletes like him.”
In a statement posted on his website, Katusha-Alpecin’s Kittel said: “As a pro cyclist, I am always confronted with the topic of doping. I can’t blame anyone for that, when you look at the history of cycling and other endurance sports.
“Nevertheless, I have always tried to be a good example and transparent.
“It is a slap in the face to all clean athletes like me, sports fans, and all the passionate volunteer trainers, caregivers and helpers who support the sport with their heart and soul.”
Kittel and Preidler rode together in the Argos-Shimano team, now Sunweb, until 2015 when the former left for Quick-Step.
The scandal began to unravel last week, when police raided 16 properties and arrested nine people in connection with blood doping in the Nordic skiing World Championships in Seefeld, Austria.
Police operations were carried out in Seefeld and in Erfurt, Germany and 40 blood bags were seized.
A number of skiers were arrested, alongside German doctor Mark Schmidt who was linked to the former Gerolsteiner cycling team.
Gerolsteiner folded in 2008 after a number of doping scandals.
Video footage emerged after the raids, showing Austrian skier Max Hauke allegedly being interrupted by police in the middle of a blood transfusion.
While investigating the doctor, police encountered Denifl according to Austrian media and he later admitted doping in a police interview.
Preidler then announced his “spontaneous and immediate” resignation to his Groupama-FDJ team on Sunday (March 3), having pulled out of the weekend’s racing.
The Austrian quit the team after he admitted to extracting blood to re-infuse it at a later date.
Kittel, who grew up in Erfurt, added: “I find it tragic that a handful of people can do so much damage to the image of German sports and my hometown.”
After the details of blood doping surfaced, the UCI said the investigation was not aimed at cycling so the governing body was not implicated.
In a later statement, released on Tuesday (March 5), the UCI said it had received further information regarding the case and had decided to provisionally suspend both Preidler and Denifl with immediate affect.
The organisation added it “will not comment further on any of these matters.”
In his response, Kittel asked how athletes like Preidler can be helped to stop them doping.