Estonian skiers, coaches hit with four-year bans after doping investigation

Karel Tammjärv (left) and Andreas Veerpalu.
Karel Tammjärv (left) and Andreas Veerpalu. Source: Tairo Lutter/Postimees Grupp/Scanpix Baltics

Ski governing body the International Ski Federation (FIS) has handed four-year competitive bans to three Estonian skiers, and coaching bans to two coaches, in the wake of a doping scandal which came to light early this year.

Andreas Veerpalu, Karel Tammjärv and Algo Kärp are all banned from compeition for four years. Coaches Mati Alaver and Andrus Veerpalu, the former Olympic and World Gold medallist and father of Andreas, are banned from coaching for the same length of time.

An FIS spokesperson told Swedish daily Expressen that the bans followed an in-depth investigation.

Five skiers were detained at the world ski championships in Seefeld, Austria, in late February. In addition to the three Estonian skiers, Austrians Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf, as well as Kazakh skier Aleksei Poltaranin, were picked up following a police raid. Hauke and Baldauf received four-year bans in July, according to ERR.

An FIS statement said: "The FIS has worked closely with the Austrian, Estonian and German authorities and we are now ready to take the next steps. As of now, the FIS is working with [sports consultancy] Global Sports Investigations to widen the scope of the investigations; the FIS investigated alleged violations of the anti-doping rules by athletes and support staff in accordance with FIS regulations; The FIS cooperated with the aforementioned authorities; The FIS plans to thoroughly re-analyze existing doping samples."

Earlier this month Mati Alaver received a one-suspended jail sentence together with an eighteen-month probationary period for facilitating doping activities.

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.

According to the prosecutor's office indictment, Alaver repeatedly told athletes about doping at unidentified times and places, arguing that without using the substances, the skier would not be on an equal footing with others, since many of the top competitors also used prohibited, performance-enhancing substances.

Blood doping's main aim is to rapidly increase the level of hemoglobin in the blood, which improves the body's ability to absorb oxygen under competitive conditions, ERR reports.

Andrus Veerpalu was Alexei Poltoranin's coach, and, the FIS said, is suspected of violating doping rules. As that investigation is ongoing, the FIS could not comment further, according to ERR, though it did say that his four-year ban related to rules violations during his work as a coach.

The FIS decision can be appealed at the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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