A drug with a similar effect to EPO that is not yet on the market has already been used by professional cyclists, according to police investigating the Operation Aderlass blood doping ring. Investigators are believed to have obtained the names of several riders who used the product and passed them on to the UCI and the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF).
Operation Aderlass first hit the headlines when a number of arrests were made at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Austria in February 2019.
Several cyclists have since been sanctioned as a result of the investigation – the highest profile being Italian Alessandro Petacchi, winner of Milan-San Remo and the points jersey at all three Grand Tours, who received a two-year ban in August last year.
Het Nieuwsblad reports that investigators have now uncovered a previously unknown doping product known as H7379 Haemoglobin Human.
A synthetic form of haemoglobin, the product boosts oxygen transfer around the body. Investigators believe there was microdosing of riders during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
The use of H7379 was picked up following last month’s arrest of a Croatian who is believed to have supplied the drug to Mark Schmidt, the former Gerolsteiner and Milram team doctor at the centre of the investigation.
The supplier also provided the names of several cyclists which have now been passed on to the UCI.
Late last year, the UCI asked the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation to retest samples taken during the 2016 and 2017 seasons following receipt of information and documents from Operation Aderlass.
It is thought that these samples will now be specifically tested for H7379.