STA, 15 May 2019 - The world body for sports cycling, UCI, has suspended Slovenian riders Kristijan Koren and Borut Božič after being notified of doping suspicions by Austrian authorities.
The Slovenian riders were suspended along with Italian Alessandro Petacchi and Croat Kristijan Đurasek. Koren, Božič and Petacchi allegedly violated anti-doping rules in 2012-13, and Đurasek in 2017.
"The procedure is being handled by the UCI, which has made the announcement, so we cannot comment on the case," said Jani Dvoršak, director of the Slovenian Anti-Doping Agency.
A member of Bahrain-Merida, Koren has been part of the team at the ongoing Giro d'Italia, while Božič is the club's sports director having retired as rider after last year's season.
The UCI took the step based on information received from the law enforcement authorities of Austria.
The body said it was in close contact with the sport and state authorities involved in the Aderlass investigation, in particular with the World Anti-Doping Agency and Austrian law enforcement.
The UCI and the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation would not make any further comment at this stage.
Operation Aderlass culminated during this year's Cross-Country Skiing World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, as the police busted a blood doping ring headed by a German doctor and his three aides.
The doctor is suspected of helping athletes achieve better results by means of blood transfusions or blood doping between 2011 and 2019. Twenty-one athletes have been detected as his alleged clients.
Bahrain-Merida confirmed the suspension of Koren and Božič, saying it had a "zero-tolerance doping policy" and "always carries out a thorough medical checks (including biological passport check) of any new signed rider."
The team pointed out that "both cases relate to the 2012 and/or 2013 season" when Koren rode for the Liquigas-Cannondale and Cannondale teams, while Božič rode for Astana.
This is a second doping case involving Slovenian riders this year after it transpired in January that Jani Brajkovič failed a doping test during the Tour of Croatia last year.
Brajkovič, who claimed unintended intake of a banned substance by means of a food supplement, was given a ten-month suspension by the UCI.