A Bahrain-McLaren manager has denied having a connection to the doctor at the centre of the Operation Aderlass blood doping investigation.
Milan Eržen, who is still managing director at Bahrain-McLaren, allegedly contacted Dr Mark Schmidt to “enter into a business relationship,” a court in Germany heard during Schmidt’s trial, news agency DPA reports.
Schmidt was arrested in 2019 after police carried out raids at the Nordic Ski World Championships and the German is in court accused of 150 doping charges.
The 42-year-old has already confessed to using banned substances and blood doping with his athletes in Germany and Austria, after the revelations in elite cycling and endurance skiing.
On Friday (November 27), the Munich Regional Court heard from an investigator who had questioned Schmidt during the investigation, who told the court Eržen had contacted Schmidt and had asked for a “machine” apparently for processing blood.
The court heard that Schmidt refused to work with Slovenian Eržen and did not respond to a text message.
However, Eržen’s lawyer Tomažin Bolcar has denied the connection to Slovenian website Siol.net: “Between 2013 and 2016, Milan Eržen did not perform any function in cycling. The text message from 2014 to Dr. Schmidt thus has nothing to do with cycling.”
“Furthermore, there was never any form of cooperation between Eržen and Schmidt and they never established a relationship, neither business or personal.”
Operation Aderlass came to light in February 2019 when an investigation into blood doping in endurance skiing resulted in police raids at the Nordic Skiing World Championships in Seefeld, Austria.
Police raided 16 properties and arrested nine people last year during operations in Seefeld and Erfurt, Germany, and 40 blood bags were seized in the process.
A number of skiers were arrested and it soon emerged that top tier cyclists were also involved. Former Groupama-FDJ rider Georg Preidler and former Aqua Blue Sport rider Stefan Denifl have both been banned from the sport for four years.
In May last year, the UCI then published four names believed to be connected with the case as Slovenian Bahrain-Merida rider Kristijan Koren was pulled from the Giro d’Italia by his team, while Kristijan Đurasek from UAE Team Emirates was removed from the Tour of California over the revelations.
Also named were Bahrain-Merida assistant sports director Borut Božič and retired Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.
Petacchi was given a two-year ban for doping violations dating back to 2012 and 2013, and was stripped of his results from that period.
Then in October, Koren and his compatriot Božič were banned for two years each and were fired by Bahrain-Merida while Đurasek was banned for four years in November.
Cycling Weekly has approached Bahrain-McLaren for comment.
The trial continues.