Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler handed four-year bans for blood doping

The two Austrian riders were caught by investigators as part of Operation Aderlass

Austrian riders Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler have both been handed four-year bans from cycling by the UCI for blood doping.

The two riders were caught in Operation Aderlass, an Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office investigation in to blood doping in endurance skiing.

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."

Preidler quit WorldTour team Groupama-FDJ in March after he too was implicated in the long-running doping scheme which has seen a number of other riders and former professionals provisionally banned.

The UCI on Thursday announced that it would ban the two riders for four-years, having allowed the Austrian National Anti-Doping Organisation (ÖADR) to take on the disciplinary proceedings and render a decision, which it will recognise once the date of appeal has past.

Both riders have the option of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but must do so within four weeks.

Preidler and Denifl both face periods of ineligibility from the start of their provisional sanctions in March 5, 2019 until March 4, 2023.

The UCI said in its statement that Preidler, now 29, had been found to use the prohibited method in 2018, meaning he will lose all results from February 1 2018 to March 5, 2019, which includes his only WorldTour victory, a stage win at the Tour of Poland.

Denifl, 31, meanwhile will lose all results from June 1, 2014 to March 5, 2019 after it was found he used a prohibited method between June 2014 and the end of 2018. That means he will lose his overall victory at the 2017 Tour of Austria as well as his biggest career win, stage 17 of the Vuelta a España 2017 when he was riding for the Aqua Blue Sport team.

The UCI added it would continue to cooperate with Opration Aderlass but made no comment on continuing investigations of the blood-doping scheme that reportedly dates back to 2011.

Richard Windsor

Richard began working with Cycling Weekly in 2013 alongside the then web editor, Nigel Wynn. Taking over as digital editor or Cycling Weekly and mbr in 2014, Richard coordinates site content and strategy with the team.