Prosecutor Pern: Alaver's sentence was not too light

Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern.
Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern. Source: ERR

Taavi Pern, the prosecutor for the case against the former Estonian national ski coach Mati Alaver, said he did not think the sentence was too light and that it is more important to set a precedent when it comes to doping.

On Thursday, Alaver was sentenced for inciting doping to a one-year suspended prison sentence with a probation period of one year and six months, he also has to pay €810 towards court costs. The punishment was part of a plea-bargain.

"Taking into account the circumstances of this case and taking into account the accused, the punishment was commensurate with the wishes of the (prosecutor's office). This is the highest sentence ever imposed on anyone in Estonia for this crime," Pern told the ERR.

Instead, Pern considered it more important that there was a convicting precedent for incitement to doping and that long-standing suspicions about Alaver had been proven.

"The court has made it clear that inciting blood doping is also punishable. In my opinion, what is important is that we have been able to put an end to some of the doubts that have previously arisen around Mati Alaver. We have confirmed by court order, that yes, Mati Alaver is a trainer who has used doping," said Pern

Alaver was convicted of inciting cross-country skiers athletes to use doping substances. As the court ruled that the names of their athletes would not be disclosed, Pern could only say that there were three Estonian and one foreign athlete.

The indictment referred to an athlete's use of a growth hormone substance and that Alaver sparked an interest and desire in athletes to use banned substances to improve athletic performance.

No criminal proceeds were identified by the investigation. Pern also said no business activity or third party support was identified.

In Austria the investigation continues

Under Estonian law, doping cases can only be prosecuted for inciting the use of doping substances and, in some cases, for smuggling doping substances.

Pern said the prosecution was only able to investigate crimes that fall within the last five years, because the second-degree offense of inducing doping substances expires in five years and criminal proceedings are ruled out.

At the same time, criminal proceedings are ongoing in Austria, including in relation to Alaver. As Alaver has been convicted in Estonia of inciting to use drugs, he cannot be convicted again of this crime. In Estonia, the prosecutor's office has cooperated with Austrians as well as Germans to avoid double criminality in Austria.

"We have repeatedly met with the Austrian and German authorities, we have agreed on a framework for what kind of crimes are being prosecuted in Estonia, Germany, and Austria. Among other things, we have said that no state should terminate its own proceedings for double punishment," Pern said.

Pern could not comment on the accusations that could be made against Alaver by Austrian and German authorities. 

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.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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