Tom Dumoulin has said the news that Georg Preidler may have doped in the 2017 Giro d’Italia is a “bitter pill to swallow.”
Preidler, who admitted his involvement in a blood doping ring earlier this year, has been charged with fraud as he is accused of using banned practices from the 2017 Giro up until this season.
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The Austrian rode for Sunweb in 2017, where he supported Tom Dumoulin to his first Grand Tour victory in Italy, before moving to Groupama-FDJ the following year.
Preidler previously said he had extracted blood but denies having it re-infused. He is now accused of blood doping and using growth hormone from the spring of 2017.
In a statement posted on social media, Dumoulin said: “Unfortunately, today I read that Georg Preidler has been accused of doping in 2017, including the Giro that I won. I am shocked to read that. I’m beyond proud of that victory and I always will be.
“But now I know that I might have had a team-mate who had not been racing around clean. That is a bitter pill to swallow.”
Preidler, who rode on the same team as Dumoulin from 2013 until 2017, quit Groupama-FDJ in March after being implicated in the long-running blood doping operation, Operation Aderlass, an Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office investigation in to blood doping in endurance skiing.
Preidler and his compatriot Stefan Denifl, who formerly rode for Aqua Blue Sport, have both been banned from racing for four years by the UCI, but Preidler’s ban is provisional as he is contesting the case.
Dumoulin added: “He made a terrible life decision, which also affects a lot of people around him, and he can not turn it back. He made a mistake and he will pay for it.
“But I don’t want to be bitter towards anyone and especially not to someone that I considered to be close to me in the past.
“I hope he will get his life back on track and that he will be able to find the joyful, nice person within him. I know it’s there from the first years we were team-mates and I hope he knows that about himself as well.”
Dutchman Dumoulin, 28, said he and Preidler were close in their early years in the team, but that he had become “bitter, insecure and self-contained” in his later years with Sunweb.
Preidler, 29, has been charged with “commercially serious (sports) fraud,” over his doping – a trial date has not yet been set and he has two weeks to appeal the charge.