The Court of Arbitration for Sport has postponed its ruling, originally due today, on the doping case of Andrus Veerpalu, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in cross-country skiing.
The new date for the ruling has been set as March 25, ETV reported. As in previous postponements, the court has not commented on its reasoning for the decision.
One of Estonia's most celebrated athletes, Veerpalu, 42, saw his reputation tarnished in 2011 when, following an early retirement, his doping test results turned up positive for human growth hormone and the International Ski Federation handed him a three-year ban on competing or taking part in any official event. The athlete appealed the decision to the international arbitration body, where he testified in June 2012. The court has since postponed a ruling several times.
Veerpalu has maintained his innocence, backed by a medical team that claimed the test was not "trustworthy."
In the wake of the scandal, the head of Estonia's Ski Association resigned after having initially lied about the doping results, and the internationally respected head coach of the national ski team also resigned.
Among other medical experts, Estonian Anti-Doping Agency lab specialist Jüri Laasik boldly questioned the validity of the methodology used in Cologne, Germany to test the athlete. He said it is new and debated by specialists because the growth hormone levels are so irregular, varying during different parts of the day and in different situations. The normal level of growth hormone, he said, has yet to be defined.
Although the hormone has long been abused, it could not be properly tested until the 2000s. In 2004, a test was deemed inadequate, and the current method has been in use since the summer of 2010. Natural growth hormone levels increase during training, and , Laasik said studies have shown that the level can rise by 20 times in three to five hours of training. Veerpalu was tested immediately after a rigorous three-hour training session.