(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY-SA 3.0)
The procedure, which is of highly questionable value and generally considered on the fringe of medical science, involves the removal of an amount of blood which is then "treated" with ultra-violet light, supposedly to increase the body's resistance to infection. There is little scientific evidence to show it has any beneficial effect and none to suggest it enhances athletic performance - and the amounts in question fall far short of what is required in blood doping whereby large quantities are removed to later be injected back into the body so as to boost the circulation's ability to carry oxygen to the muscles.
The procedure was added as part of an effort to outlaw all forms of intravenous injection due to worries that similar methods might be used to mask the use and presence of banned drugs.
The claims were made by German broadcaster ARD and widely reported elsewhere, including here, but there now seems to be no likelihood of the rider facing investigation for wrong-doing. It4i team management responded to the broadcaster with a press release that included the following:
"For Marcel Kittel, this doctor was also his official contact point in case of health problems. Furthermore, the management of Project 1t4i can report that two other cyclists of the team, Patrick Gretsch and John Degenkolb have also had contact with this doctor in the past.
The team has not heard from the German Public Prosecutor that investigates Dr. Franke, nor from the German anti-doping agency in Bonn, nor from the international world anti-doping agency WADA. The team was also not approached by the German television network ARD."
ARD says that it has evidence 28 athletes are linked to an ongoing case involving the doctor, but it is not known if they too will escape investigation.