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. 

SEE ALSO: Legal doping: Cannabis in beer experiencing a high in Germany

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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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.