"This is a doping business," said Attorney General Michael Lehner.

It was in the middle of the Ski World Cup Seefeld in February 2019 that Operation Aderlass, the police raid against the doping network, started.

Two hours before the start of the men's 15-kilometer race, Austrian police arrested nine people, five of them active skiers, on suspicion of blood doping.

Three skiers were set free after confessing, including Max Hauke ​​who was caught with a syringe in his arm.

23 athletes involved

Now that the trial is starting in Munich against the German doctor Mark Schmidt, there are 23 skiers and cyclists from eight nations among those involved, but more names may emerge.

- There are more athletes involved, the network has been larger, says public prosecutor Michael Lehner according to AFP.

- One must not forget that this is about business with a hard currency - money.

It's not about active people doping themselves, this is a business in doping.

During the investigation, prosecutor Kai Graeber said that large amounts of evidence had been found and about 30 witnesses had been called to the trial, which is expected to continue until the end of December.

May have helped Olympic activists

No big sports stars are among the now suspects, but Schmidt is accused of having helped athletes who participated in the 2014 and 2018 Olympics to dope themselves.

And according to the indictment, writes AFP, he is also accused of having doped cyclists who competed in the 2016 Olympics as well as in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Spain around the last few years.

Six years ago, the Austrian skier Johannes Dürr was caught doping during the Olympics in Sochi.

It was the starting shot for the investigations that led to Operation Aderlass.