With media reports swirling that several top Estonian skiers may have tested positive for banned substances in a retest of samples taken during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, one of the Estonian heroes of those games, Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, pursued damage control in the domestic media on Thursday evening.
Šmigun-Vähi issued a statement in which she confirmed that her sample had come under new suspicion, and denied that she had ever used banned substances.
"Already once, an attempt was made [at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games] to break me with groundless accusations," she said in the statement addressed to the Estonian people and carried on the front pages of main news outlets. "It's unbelievable, but today I've been placed in a situation where I have to fight a new battle.
"Exactly two months ago I received word that no banned substances were found in new testing of my A-sample given eight years ago, during the Turin Games, but that allegedly it contains molecules from which a suspicion of use of banned substances has been deduced."
In the statement, she mentioned both samples, A and B, as having raised a red flag.
But, she said, "all of the samples, every last one, were clean [during testing in 2006]. They had to be, because I have never used any banned substances."
Šmigun-Vähi said she had taken a lie detector on January 21 at an internationally certified bureau, which she had had confirmed the same.
The statement by Šmigun-Vähi marked a dramatic turn in what had started out as an unconfirmed media report yesterday.
Russian sports website Ves Sport reported that "one or two" Estonian cross-country skiers have failed re-tests on samples taken during the 2006 Turin Olympic Games. Then, Estonian doping authorities have confirmed that they have heard similar rumors. No names were mentioned at the time.
Estonia sent 28 athletes to the 2006 games, among them 14 cross-country skiers. Šmigun-Vähi, then competing under her maiden name, won two gold medals. Another of them was Andrus Veerpalu, who retired from the sport in 2011 under a cloud of suspicion about doping violations. He also won a gold medal in Turin.
In a separate development, Veerpalu, who was cleared of doping charges last year, could have his trial reopened.
The head of WADA, David Howman, told Õhtuleht on Wednesday that new stricter standards, that would have found Veerpalu guilty, will be put into effect soon.
He also said the organization could re-test old samples using the new norms, after having said the opposite on Monday.