Although Andrus Veerpalu, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has been acquitted of doping charges by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, court officials say they still suspect that the Estonian cross-country skier broke doping rules.
In a statement sent to ERR, the court wrote: "In conclusion, the panel noted that there were many factors in this case which tend to indicate that Andrus Veerpalu did in fact himself administer exogenous [human growth hormone], but that, for the reason that procedural flaws have been found in the statistical side of the [World Anti-Doping Agency] studies establishing the decision limits, the violation of the [International Ski Federation] anti-doping rules cannot be upheld on appeal."
Veerpalu had challenged the ban on four grounds. Among other things, he claimed that the laboratory was not accredited, and that he had a condition which caused his body to produce excess human growth hormone after exercise. In the end, the court upheld his appeal only on the statistical grounds.
The court ordered the International Ski Federation to pay 8,200 euros to cover the defendant's legal fees.
In January 2011, anti-doping authorities took a sample from Veerpalu, who was training for the World Championships at the time. Two weeks later the sample came back positive for human growth hormone, and Veerpalu announced his retirement and that he was withdrawing from the Oslo event.
One of Estonia's most celebrated athletes, Veerpalu, 42, saw his reputation tarnished as 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 had postponed a ruling several times.
Veerpalu has maintained his innocence, backed by a medical team that claimed the test was not "trustworthy."