At a hearing in Bolzano, Italy, on Thursday, International Biathlon Union (IBU) Vice President for Sport Gottlieb Taschler was indicted in a criminal investigation into doping, along with his son Daniel and Michele Ferrari, a doctor famous for working with cyclists like Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Alexander Vinokourov, Denis Menchov, Filippo Simeoni, and others.
The elder Taschler is accused of recommending that his son, an Italian B-team biathlete at the time, receive doping assistance from Ferrari in the 2010/2011 season. The younger Taschler, now 28, is accused of obtaining and using recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) to try to make the World Cup team.
Ferrari had already been banned for life for participating in doping activities by the Italian cycling federation, and also banned by the U.S. Antidoping Agency (USADA) after the Armstrong case.
The investigation into the Taschlers had been going on secretly for several years already when the allegations were first released in December 2014. At the time, Taschler stated that he would no longer work on IBU matters until the situation was cleared.
Now that he has been indicted, it is unclear whether his status as a member of the Executive Board has changed, or whether it will.
Taschler, part of Italy’s bronze medal-winning relay at the 1988 Olympics, has served on the Executive Board since 2006 in various roles. He was re-elected to his current position in 2014, just months before the scandal broke.
The family’s ties to doping may not end there. Besides Daniel Taschler, Gottlieb Taschler also has a daughter, Mirjam, who is married to Johannes Dürr. The Austrian cross-country skier was busted for blood doping in the middle of the 2014 Olympics.
Dürr claimed in an interview last year that he had known the “wrong people” and obtained his drugs from someone from a former Yugoslav republic. To FasterSkier’s knowledge, this person’s identity was never discovered.
But in February, police raided Dürr’s house, including computers and phone records. They were reportedly hoping to find evidence linking him to Ferrari, possibly through the Taschlers. Since Dürr was not indicted in the Bolzano court, it’s unclear what these efforts yielded.
Also this week, Austrian skier Harald Wurm was provisionally suspended pending an investigation into blood doping. Wurm was first investigated by the police in September, and he was reportedly extremely close friends with Dürr.
It is now confirmed that Wurm will not be able to compete in the opening World Cup races of the season, if at all. Austrian cross-country head coach Gerald Heigl stepped down from his position, although he denied any connection to Wurm’s alleged doping.
The current case in Bolzano is truly a multi-generational affair, with Ferrari’s son Stefano also being investigated for managing the financial side of his father’s illicit drug sales, according to The Guardian.
Michele Ferrari is being indicted for money laundering, illegal sales, and tax evasion with regards to the scheme. Daniel Taschler is being indicted for sport fraud, and Gottlieb Taschler for complicity in the fraud.
In December, the Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport published a transcript of a wiretap from July 2010.
According to a translation, here’s a conversation between the younger Taschler (Referred to as “DT” below) and the elder Ferrari (MF):
MF: “You have not even begun? Well, then we’ll do a small program … you are at home?”
DT: “Yes, I’m home.”
DT: “Until the end of the month.”
MF: “Ah, you’re always at home. Well! Take them when you get home, take them at home!”
MF: “One day yes, one day no, as we had said.”
Ferrari then told Daniel Taschler to buy a different phone for future communication: “I’ll leave you another phone number, but you do not have to call yourself. You have to have another telephone, and not in the name you use just for that! You get another phone with another person who is neither you nor Gottlieb, who buys a phone … So now I will give you another number, which is a Swiss to be used only for that. It’s better if you do not call it though! ”
In a separate conversation, reported by the site Salto.bz, Ferrari warned Daniel Taschler to be careful with something – the name of the drug or object was never mentioned:
MF: “Hey, you know it’s better not to keep it at home? It is a criminal offense. You have no other place? Now it is already quite cold outside, so… the important thing is not [to freeze it]. I don’t know, hide it underground or under leaves. Be careful!…”
DT: “No, I’ll keep it at home. Nothing is happening.”
MF: “There is no place other than the refrigerator and the temperature is between zero and ten degrees?”
DT: “No. I keep it at home.”
MF: “Now that it’s cold, just- just do not freeze it, that does not go to ten below zero… the best would be between the leaves. I do not know if you have a cellar or shed, if it’s a woodshed is fine. You can leave it there.”
In January, Gottlieb Taschler responded to a question about why he had been in contact with Ferrari by saying that he was calling about his son’s thyroid problem. He didn’t call because of Ferrari’s reputation, he explained, but because “I knew him at the time as a good doctor.”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.