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Durasek banned for four years for doping

Cyclingnews
Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) is leading the overall race at the Tour of Turkey

The UCI has announced that Croatian rider Kristijan Durasek has been banned for four years for "anti‐doping rule violations committed from 2016 to 2019 (use of prohibited methods/substances) based on information received from the law enforcement authorities of Austria."

Durasek turned professional with Lampre-Merida in 2013 after seven years on Croatian continental squads. He remained with the team through its transition to UAE Team Emirates.

Durasek was implicated in Operation Aderlass, an Austrian investigation that uncovered an illegal blood doping ring that involved a number of other athletes including nordic skiers and current or former professional cyclists Georg Preidler, Stefan Denifl, Kristijan Koren, Borut Bozic and Alessandro Petacchi.

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News that the UCI had provisionally in May emerged while he was riding for UAE Team Emirates at the Tour of California. He immediately quit the race and returned home and has not raced since. 

Denifl was the first rider suspended in the case after admitting to blood doping. He was given a four-year ban and disqualified from June 1 2014 to March 5 2019. Petacchi, already retired, was given a two-year suspension and disqualified from 2012 and 2013, a period when he had only three victories, all stages of the 2012 Bayern-Rundfahrt.

The UCI also gave two-year bans to Slovenians Kristijan Koren and Borut Bozic and disqualification for 2011 and 2012 and only 2012, respectively.

Operation Aderlass started at the Nordic Skiing World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, when authorities raided a hotel and reportedly caught one athlete being given a blood transfusion in his hotel. 

The investigation extended to Erfurt, Germany, where police there uncovered an estimated 40 blood bags in a garage linked to former Milram doctor Mark Schmidt. Schmidt and four others were arrested in connection to the ring.

German authorities later confirmed that 21 athletes from five different sports and eight different countries were under investigation for blood doping.

The case is notable in that the biological passport has been touted as an effective way to deter blood doping, but as a study in 2018 showed that micro-dosing blood transfusions - as little as 135ml - can boost performance up to five per cent while going largely undetected by the biological passport measures.

Denifl, who signed for the CCC Team but quit his contract before the 2019 season started, had no warning signs in his passport according to CCC Team manager Jim Ochowicz.