Trial of doctor at center of Estonian ski doping scandal begins

Mark Schmidt (in dark glasses) being arrested last December.
Mark Schmidt (in dark glasses) being arrested last December. Source: Marcus Scheidel/Mas Bildagentur

The doping doctor at the center of a scandal which enveloped Estonia's national ski team is to go on trial in the German city of Munich Wednesday.

A large-scale illegal sports doping network involving Schmidt was uncovered at the World Skiing Championships in Seefeld, Austria in February 2019, linked to three Estonian skiers and two coaches. 

Karel Tammjärv, 31, and Andreas Veerpalu, 26, were the two Estonian cross-country skiers caught in the raid, named Operation Adriatic, with a third athlete, Algo Kärp, 35, later admitting to having used blood doping.

Former olympic and world double gold medalist and father of Andreas, Andrus Veerpalu, 49, was also charged and received a four-year ban, as did head coach Mati Alaver, 66, along with Kazakh skier Alexei Poltoranin, 33, who both men coached. 

In April this year, Tammjärv and Veerpalu junior were also found to have illegally used a growth hormone in connection with their sport. 

The public prosecutor in Munich formally charged Schmidt, 42, and four others, in connection with the blood doping crimes in late December last year. 

The prosecutor's 145-page indictment, according to ERR's sports portal, says Schmidt had been involved in both blood doping and growth hormone treatments for over 20 top athletes (including cyclists as well as skiers) from eight European countries since 2011, and also bears responsibility for injuries to athletes arising from the blood doping. 

He has been reportedly paid as much as €250,000 in cash for his "services" and if found guilty will face up to 10 years in prison. 

Twenty-six hearings are planned in which some of Schmidt's athlete "customers" will take the witness stands, among others. 

Mati Alaver's fall from grace in the wake of the scandal was particularly hard, and public. He was sentenced on probation by an Estonian court last November, having been stripped of state decorations he had been awarded. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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