By Andrew Hood
T-Mobile suspended team doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich on Thursday in the wake of allegations made by a former soigneur that the pair was involved in doping practices during the 1996 Tour de France.
T-Mobile general manager Bob Stapleton said the doctors would be suspended while Germany’s University of Freiburg – with which both Schmid and Heinrich are associated – conducts an independent review of the allegations.
“After discussion with doctors Heinrich and Schmid, we have mutually agreed to discontinue their personal provision of medical service during the course of these inquiries so that no further distraction or confusion is created for our athletes,” Stapleton said in a team release. “And we hope that the independent experts can clear the allegations, so that the cooperation can be continued.”
Jef d’Hont, a Telekom soigneur during 1992-96, alleges in a book he recently published that Schmid and Heinrich administered the use of the banned blood booster EPO during the 1996 season.
T-Mobile won the Tour that year with Danish rider Bjarne Riis and pushed Tour rookie Jan Ullrich into second place.
The latest revelations come on the heels of the recent retirement of ex-team captain Ullrich, who was linked to the Operación Puerto doping investigation last summer and eventually fired by T-Mobile.
T-Mobile later fired team manager Olaf Ludwig and sport director Rudy Pevenage, opening the door for the arrival of Stapleton and the introduction of new, strict anti-doping controls within the team.
Heinrich worked closely with Stapleton to forge the groundbreaking anti-doping program, including a new blood-volume test that can help detect autologous blood packing.
Stapleton said the team remains committed to its philosophy of “clean and fair sport” and will work quickly to bring new medical support staff for the team’s riders while the investigation continues.
“We will continue our firm zero-tolerance anti-doping policy and our independent blood and hemoglobin mass testing, which is performed by independent medical professionals and monitored by an independent medical review board, as has been the case since the inception of our best-in-class anti-doping program in September, 2006,” Stapleton said.
There was no word on how much time Freiburg authorities would need to conduct their investigation or what might happen if d’Hont’s allegations are proved.