Boogerd and Dekker questioned about HumanPlasma doping scandal
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boogerd and Dekker questioned about HumanPlasma doping scandal

by VeloNation Press at 2:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

Wednesday morning former Rabobank riders Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker were questioned by Austria’s Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) as part of their investigation into the blood doping ring revolving around Bernard Kohl’s manager Stefan Matschiner and the blood bank HumanPlasma. Dekker is currently serving a two-year suspension after a retroactive test done on a sample taken in December 2007 tested positive for EPO-CERA just before the 2009 Tour de France.

The two Dutchmen travelled to Breda in Holland to meet two representatives from the BKA after refusing to meet them in Austria. According to the BN De Stem the questioning was brief, only lasting half an hour for both.

"I want to emphasize that the scope of the questions was the same as last summer with Denis Menchov, Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening," said attorney Hans van Oijen.

Menchov, Weening, and Posthuma agreed to meet the investigators last summer so they could be questioned about their possible connection to the scandal. Former Austrian Tour de France King of the Mountains winner Kohl has admitted to having played an active role in the doping ring and has dropped Michael Rasmussen’s name several times.

A report published by the BKA several months ago stated that countless blood transfusions took place in a one-room apartment in the Austrian city of Linz, that was rented by Kohl, Olympic cross-country skiing champion Christian Hoffman and former Danish king of the mountains, Michael Rasmussen.

Stefan Matschiner moved his doping headquarters around Austria from Wien, to Laakirchen, to Steyrermühl and then Linz after several Austrian athletes tested positive during the Torino Olympic Games in 2006. When police investigated him in January 2008, he moved his doping activities to Budapest.

Kohl’s confession along with the evidence gathered from the HumanPlasma blood bank affair led Austria’s doping task force to uncover a suspected doping ring with the possible involvement of several high profile Dutch athletes. The report includes a neighbor who regularly witnessed expensive Dutch-licensed cars parked for brief periods of time outside the address.

The report states that Kohl, Rasmussen, and Hoffman were all central in the coordination and distribution of doping products. According to the report, the trio had invested a total of 93,906.40 euro into a blood centrifuge and related equipment since April 2006, using the equipment to treat blood with dynepo, Cera, and other doping products. The report also states that Matschiner rented the blood centrifuge to third party athletes. On April 3rd 2009, Austrian police seized the equipment from Matschiners headquarters in Budapest. Tests showed that the blood centrifuge had preformed 85 treatments in the past two years.

In Kohl’s confession, he stated that Matschiner told him that cyclists Michael Boogerd, Thomas Dekker, and the suspended Italian Pietro Caucchioli all made a one time payment to use the blood centrifuge. Both Dutch cyclists denied the claims and have not yet been called on by the Austrian police, despite publicly stating they are willing to cooperate.

Kohl underwent his last treatment on September 24th 2008, several weeks after the Tour de France where he tested positive for Cera after placing third overall and winning the mountains competition. Matschiner declared that Rasmussen and Caucchioli also visited on the same day to deposit blood. Rasmussen, back in competition since July 25th 2009, denies this claim after being questioned by the Austrian police on August 7th.

The 12-paged report details Kohl’s history of doping. From 2000 to 2003, while still riding for Rabobank’s continental team, it says Kohl bought 30,000 single treatments of EPO from Austrian cyclist, Christian Pfannberger, who has also been suspended after testing positive for Cera earlier this year. In 2005, Kohl underwent three treatments at Human-Plasma. He continued to order doping products such as EPO and growth hormones until 2008 through Matschiner, with an estimated worth between 50,000 and 70,000 euro. It states Kohl distributed the products throughout the peloton, including retired Gerolsteiner teammate Marcu Zberg. In the spring of 2008, Kohl stated he sold Zberg 24,000 single treatments of dynepo.

Kohl’s confession and willingness to cooperate with authorities represents a narrowing of the window of opportunity for cheats in the sport. There has been a positive trend where cyclists that have tested positive for banned substances confess and provide information that helps to uncover further doping activities. Their continued cooperation, along with the increased anti-doping measures such as the UCI’s biological passport program, have begun to restore the sport’s credibility.
 

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