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German sports doctor jailed over blood doping scandal

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image captionMark Schmidt (his face blurred by order of the court) was found guilty on more than 20 charges

A German sports doctor has been jailed for nearly five years for masterminding a doping ring for athletes between 2012 and 2019.

Mark Schmidt, 42, was also fined €158,000 (£140,000; $190,000) and banned from practising medicine for a further three years by a Munich court.

The blood-doping ring mostly involved cross-country skiers and cyclists.

Schmidt was arrested in February 2019 following raids on his home in Erfurt, Germany, and at Seefeld in Austria.

At the time, the ski resort in Seefeld was hosting the Nordic World Ski Championships. Several suspects were detained just before the start of a men’s cross-country event and one Austrian athlete was caught undergoing a blood transfusion. The arrests sent shockwaves through the skiing world.

Blood doping involves re-injecting an athlete’s own blood to boost red-blood cell concentration, increasing stamina and performance.

media captionHow does blood doping work?

The police operation “Aderlass”, which means blood-letting in German, led to the first major prosecutions since doping became a criminal offence in Germany in 2015.

Schmidt went on trial in September with four accomplices who were also found guilty by the Munich court. Two received suspended sentences and the other two were handed fines.

The disgraced doctor expressed remorse for his crimes last week in a written statement read out by his lawyers, saying: “I took a wrong turn and have myself to blame.”

He also said he regretted involving his co-defendants, adding: “I am infinitely sorry that I dragged the other four into it.”

One of the co-defendants had told the court how she had driven around Europe handing out doping supplies to athletes for a fee of €200 (£180; $240) each time.

During the trial Schmidt admitted blood doping but insisted he didn’t financially profit from it and that no-one’s health was put at risk.

Schmidt was found guilty on 24 counts of using doping methods and two counts of forbidden use of medicinal drugs.

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