Ski doping scandal: Veerpalu and Tammjärv used growth hormone

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Andreas Veerpalu.
Andreas Veerpalu. Source: ERR

Estonian skiers Andreas Veerpalu and Karel Tammjärv, who were banned from international competitions after using blood doping, also used growth hormone for doping purposes, brief summaries of the International Ski Federation (FIS) cases reveal. Former ski coach Mati Alaver has accepted all the charges against him.

Veerpalu confirmed that between 2017-19, his blood was repeatedly withdrawn from his circulatory system which was then subsequently re-injected. The investigation also found that both Veerpalu and Karel Tammjärv used growth hormones.

Andreas Veerpalu's and Karel Tammjärv's competitive results obtained since February 22, 2017 (i.e. the day of the first re-injection of their own blood) are disqualified with all resulting consequences, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prices.

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.

Human growth hormone (hGH) is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. It is synthesized and secreted by cells in the anterior pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. Some of the effects attributed to hGH, which may explain the attraction for its use as a doping agent, especially in power and endurance sports, include the reduction of body fat (lipolysis), the increase in muscle mass and strength (anabolic effect), as well as its tissue-repairing effects (recovery) on the musculo-skeletal system.

The summaries have been uploaded in English here.

Ski coach accepts all charges

Former ski coach Mati Alaver has accepted all the charges against him.

At the Ski World Championships in Seefeld, Austria last February, Austrian police conducted an operation in which several cross-country skiers were detained on suspicion of blood doping. 

At the same time, German police searched the office of Mark Schmidt, a sports doctor suspected of doping, in Erfurt, Germany. Based on the findings, criminal investigations were launched in Germany, Austria and Estonia. Three of the skiers involved were Estonians from the Team Haanja team, which was created in 2015 by Mati Alaver.

In the course of the investigation, Alaver admitted that he had set up a network of contacts, in which some of the wards were contacted by Mark Schmidt. The investigation revealed that Alaver organized the time and place of the blood doping procedures of some Estonian athletes and asked Schmidt to supply the athletes with growth hormone as well. 

According to the FIS, Alaver advised athletes to drink plenty of salt water and use albumin to cover up the use of illicit substances.

On 28 August 2019, the FIS imposed a temporary ban on Alaver, which was not challenged by the former coach. In November of the same year, the FIS indicted Alaver for repeated breaches of anti-doping rules. The FIS imposed a four-year ban on Alaver. The former ski coach accepted the allegations and did not contest the decision. According to the decision of the FIS, Alaver will be released from the operating ban on August 27, 2023.

Last November, the Harju County Court convicted Mati Alaver of inciting doping in the settlement procedure. According to the penal agreement concluded with the Public Prosecutor's Office, Alaver was sentenced to suspended imprisonment for one and a half years.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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