By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Wednesday demanded swift and tough sanctions for doping offenders — both athletes and their support staff — involved in a German-Austrian doping ring.
At least 21 athletes from eight nations across five sports are suspected of blood-doping linked to a German doctor who was arrested as part of an Austria-Germany doping raid last month.
Five athletes, including two Austrians, were initially arrested on Feb. 27 at the Nordic skiing world championships in the Austrian resort of Seefeld.
The arrests were part of a joint operation with German police targeting a suspected international blood-doping ring believed to have been run out of Germany.
“We hope that all this will be clarified and everything will come on the table and there those responsible and the entourage of these athletes, the doctors and the personnel, that they will be punished soon and hard,” Bach said.
“I hope that this is not dragging on, that their justice will really set an example. I hope there will be hard sanctions to have a deterrent effect on everybody,” he added.
A doctor in the German city of Erfurt was also arrested along with five other suspected accomplices.
According to German prosecutors, the doping of the 21 athletes from five sports — three winter and two summer — occurred from 2011 onwards and blood transfusions took place in many countries across the world.
Since the arrests other Austrian athletes have been implicated in blood doping. Cyclist Georg Preidler told police this month that he had attempted doping.
Cross-country skier Johannes Duerr, whose interview with Germany’s ARD television in which he admitted doping triggered the investigation and raids, was arrested on March 5.
The IOC has had to deal with its own major doping scandal, stemming from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and involving many Russian athletes, including medal winners.
Some of those case are ongoing, making their way through the sports and civil courts, years after the athletes in question were identified.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)