New arrest in Erfurt doping scandal

A further person has been arrested in connection with a blood doping network based in the German city of Erfurt, the state prosecutor in Munich confirmed on Wednesday.

New arrest in Erfurt doping scandal
Dozens of athletes from eight different countries have been implicated in a blood doping scandal. Image: DPA

The authorities confirmed they are investigating 21 athletes from eight different countries in relation to a blood doping scandal which broke when a series of raids were carried out around the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria at the beginning of March. 

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Nine people and five athletes, including Olympic skier Max Hauke, were detained at the time, as part of a joint operation between German and Austrian police dubbed “Operation Bloodletting”.

In Munich, the state prosecutor confirmed that the scandal could have wider implications.

“The 21 athletes come from five different sports, of which three are winter sports,” senior prosecutor Kai Gräber said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The athletes are suspected of having undergone a “three-digit number” of blood transfusions since 2011, Gräber said.

The transfusions were carried out in locations across the world, he added, including in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Korea and Hawaii.

At the centre of the scandal is Mark Schmidt, a 40-year-old doctor from the city of Erfurt in Eastern Germany, who was one of four people taken into custody earlier this month.

But Gräber confirmed on Wednesday that a fifth arrest had been made.

The person in question is alleged to have transported bags of blood and assisted athletes in doping. “We have here an exciting story with a lot of twists, and the final chapter has not yet been written,” said Gräber.

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Austria avalanche kills three

An avalanche in the Salzburg region killed three people and injured two while they were skiing off-piste, Austria's Red Cross said Saturday.

Snow and avalanche protection fences seen on a clear day on mountains surrounding Lech am Arlberg, western Austria
Some mountains in Austria have snow and avalanche protection fences, like these seen on a clear day on mountains surrounding Lech am Arlberg, western Austria. ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

The accident happened Saturday about 2,400 metres (7,800 feet) up in the Lungau district, soon after 1:45 pm local time, Red Cross spokesman Anton Schilcher told the APA agency.

The snow buried eight of the group up to 4.5 metres deep, local emergency response official Christoph Wiedl told local media.

Two of the victims were already dead when their bodies were recovered, while the third died after being airlifted to hospital in Klagenfurt.

The two injured skiers were taken to hospital in the town of Tamsweg.

The skiers caught in the avalanche were from a group from the regions of Salzburg and Upper Austria.

In recent years, an average of around 20 people a year have been killed annually by avalanches in Austria.

The last two seasons were less deadly as the coronavirus pandemic reduced the number of skiers overall.

Avalanches killed four people in western Austria’s Tyrol region last February.