Former ski coach Alaver sentenced to probation for doping involvement ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Harju County Court sentenced former national ski coach Mati Alaver to probation for facilitating doping activities on Thursday, ERR reports.

The judgment results from a plea bargain with the prosecutor's office, in which Alaver himself did not plead guilty, but was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence, with a six-month probation period.

Alaver must also pay €810 in costs, ERR reports.

"We greatly appreciate the cross-border cooperation in evidence gathering and the mutual exchange of information with our Austrian and German counterparts, which provided important material for the case and allowed the case to be brought to court," said Chief Public Prosecutor Taavi Pern, according to ERR.

"We greatly appreciate the cross-border cooperation in evidence gathering and the mutual exchange of information with our Austrian and German counterparts, which provided important material for the case and allowed the case to be brought to court," said lead public Taavi Pern prosecutor, according to ERR.

"While the pre-trial procedure in Estonia focused on inducement to doping activities, it is hoped that that conducting this procedure will contribute to a debate within society about the integrity of sport and the potential dangers of doping," Pern went on.

"Elite athletes are a role model for all sports players, children, amateurs and other top athletes. As a result, the use of prohibited techniques does not only affect specific athletes, but can have a much broader impact. Doping users put their own health and lives at risk, and, in the worst case scenarios, encouraging doping can also lead to serious and lasting harm to, or even the death, another person," Pern added.

The prosecutor's office filed the action last month, and according to Taavi Pern, the indictment concerns Alaver's activities over the period 2016-2019. 

The prosecution did not disclose the content of the plea bargain between it and Alaver, and neither did the latter, or his lawyer Aivar Pilv.

Doping allegations emerged at February's world championships

Alaver, 65, was detained by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in March as part of a criminal investigation into alleged ski doping at the World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria in February. He was released after some hours, though criminal proceedings were commenced under section 195 of the Penal Code, which relates to pecuniary punishment or up to three years' imprisonment.

Alaver admitted in an interview with ERR in March that he had contacted German sports physician Mark Schmidt, who had allegedly supplied Estonian skier Karel Tammjärv with doping substances, but denied claims that he, Alaver, had tolerated the activities.

Following the arrest of Tammjärv and fellow skier Andreas Veerpalu, a third skier, Algo Kärp, confessed to the use of doping, with Alaver then admitting he had put Kärp in contact with Schmidt.

Alaver also repeatedly denied that Andrus Veerpalu, whose father Andrus is a former olympic and world gold medalist, engaged in doping.

The doping revelations emerged on Feb. 27 at the world championships, where Austrian police and German prosecutors announced the exposure of an international criminal doping network and carried out searches of several national teams. 

A total of nine suspects were initially detained, including Tammjärv and Veerpalu.

A criminal investigation has also been ongoing in Austria and Germany, where doping is also a criminal offense.

Police comment

"In this case, it was important to gather as much information as possible about the illegal activity," said Mati Ombler, head of the corruption crime office, at the Central Criminal Police.

"The aim was to identify the persons involved, both dopers and the potential dopers, and their role. The actions provided sufficient evidence to suspect the ski trainer of doping involvement. A few cases of fraud in sports have been uncovered, but this case demonstrates a willingness to use unauthorized aids to bring better results; however these are long-term career and reputation-breakers. We hope this investigation will send a broader message to athletes, coaches and sports organizations, that competitive sport must be fair," Ombler continued.

The ruling can be appealed within 15 days.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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