In the penultimate chapter of a doping story which began nearly two and a half years ago, Italian biathlon relay World Champion Gottlieb Taschler and his son Daniel, an IBU Cup-level competitor, were convicted by an Italian court. Doping is a criminal offense in Italy and Daniel Taschler was convicted of using illegal methods, while his father was convicted of assisting and concealing the activities.
News first broke in late 2014 that the younger Taschler had been using the blood-boosting drug recombinant erythropoietin (EPO). He allegedly did so with the help of infamous “Doctor EPO” Michele Ferrari, a collaboration which was arranged by his father — who was then the Vice President for Sport of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), as well as the president of the Antholz-Anterselva World Cup Organizing Committee.
“Police used phone taps to listen in on conversations between Dr. Ferrari and Taschler,” CyclingNews.com reports. “Prosecutors believe they included instructions on how to take EPO and details of secret telephone numbers where Dr. Ferrari could be contacted. Taschler had pushed his son to work with Dr. Ferrari as a way to boost his athletic career.”
The elder Taschler stepped down from his IBU role after public pressure in December 2014, and the younger Taschler has not competed since then either.
“I have been shocked by the recent media reports alleging that I have been involved in doping and, even worse, that I have helped to organize performance enhancing substances for my son Daniel. This is simply not true,” Gottlieb Taschler wrote in an IBU press release at the time.
In 2016, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) arbitration panel found that Daniel Taschler had doped between 2010 and 2011. Both Taschlers received bans from participating in sport through June 2018.
A concurrent criminal case has also now been decided. Gottlieb Taschler was fined 4,000 Euros and Daniel 3,600, and they were sentenced to one year and to nine months of imprisonment, respectively, although the jail time was suspended. In both cases, the fines imposed by the judge were even heavier than those requested by state prosecutors.
The senior Taschler will have an uphill battle if he wants to regain his biathlon jobs, as the court also banned him for life from taking on any roles with CONI or with the Italian Winter Sports Federation, FISI. The IBU will have to decide on his fate separately.
The court also found Ferrari in violation, and fined him 4,500 Euros with 18 months of imprisonment, during which time he is not allowed to work as a doctor. Like the Taschlers, Ferrari saw his prison sentence suspended. He was also, however, ordered to pay a 15,000 Euro fine to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Ferrari has been implicated in many doping scandals, most visibly in cycling; he worked with disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong, among others. He is serving a lifetime ban against working with the Italian cycling federation. This is the first time he has been convicted of a crime since doping became a criminal offense in Italy in 2000.
The Taschlers have said that they plan to appeal the decision.