'Pealtnägija' presenter: No substance to businessman malice charge

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Mihkel Kärmas Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

ERR presenter and journalist Mihkel Kärmas has denied an investigative show he presents stated that businessman Toomas Annus had been aware of ski doping activities which enveloped the sport from February 2019 onwards.

Annus said Friday he was withdrawing sponsorship funds, both issued personally and via two of his companies, across all sports, in response to an episode of "Pealtnägija" which aired on ETV on Monday – the show which Annus said made the claims.

Annus had already halted skiing sponsorship activity, but extended this to all sports following the "Pealtnägija" episode.

Mihkel Kärmas, the show's main presenter, said that: "In compiling this story, the'Pealtnägija' editor relied on [ski coach at the center of the case] Mati Alaver's case file, where we can clearly see that Toomas Annus' sponsorship money was used in the doping activities." 

The report said that money Annus had provided had directly been used to fund illicit blood doping services and the purchase of banned substances ahead of competitions; the controversy hinges on whether Annus was aware the money had been used in this way. 

 "At the same time, this handling of money outside the usual channels raises questions, which we also asked Mr. Annus, as journalists, and published his views in the broadcast," Kärmas went on.

"Annus' explanation was heard in this story both via a phone call and messages sent to us. We are very sorry if Toomas Annus has geven up his support for competitive sports more widely due to doping offenders, but this is his choice and is not a way to influence our editorial staff," Kärmas went on.

Annus had sent a letter to the media saying that an article published by ERR, in addition to the "Pealtägija" segment, contained misleading and malicious allegations linking him to the doping case affecting both individual skiers following a bust at the February 2019 world championships in Seefeld, Austria, and Team Haanja, which Annus and his companies, Merko and Kapital, had also sponsored.

Another "Pealtnägija"/ERR journalist, Taavi Eilat, also contacted Annus about the situation, with the latter remaining defiant, and saying he would have no other dealings with the show for as long as Mihkel Kärmas was working there.

"You are a malicious liar and you are trying to get more attention for your show with more or less well-known names," Annus told Eilat, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

He reiterated an earlier statement that the names connected with the case had been disclosed by Karel Tammjärv, one of the skiers found to have engaged in ski doping after the 2019 Seefeld competition, and that his, i.e. Annus', name was not on the list.

This piece was updated to include Toomas Annus' later comments to ERR's Taavi Eilat.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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