Disgraced cross-country ski star stripped of both state awards

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Andrus Veerpaul (left) after clinching his medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Source: Toomas Huik/Postimees/Scanpix

President Kersti Kaljulaid is to strip veteran Estonian cross country skier Andrus Veerpalu of his state awards, in the light of a two-year ban he recently received for involvement in illicit blood doping, the president's office announced Thursday.

Veerpalu, 50, was awarded the Red Cross, 1st class by then-president Arnold Rüütel in 2002, the year he won Winter Olympic Gold at the Salt Lake City games, followed by the Order of the White Star, 1st class, four years later, the year he bagged another Gold medal at the Winter Olympics, this time in Turin, Italy.

Section 13 of the Decorations Act allows the President of the Republic to revoke a decoration, if a recipient's subsequent actions are of a level which would preclude them from gaining a state award in the first place.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has imposed a two-year competition ban on the former skier-turned-coach, after finding him guilty of participation in an organized doping scheme, one which also involved his son, Andres, and several other skiers.

The scandal first came to light after a swoop by Austrian police at the February 2019 world championships in Seefeld, Austria. The team's coach, Mati Alaver, was found to have been the facilitator of doping activities – essentially removing a quantity of an athlete's blood, refrigerating it, and reintroducing it to their blood system shortly before a competition – organized by a notorious German "doping doctor", Mark Schmidt. Schmidt, also well-known in the cycling fraternity, has since been sentenced and imprisoned, by a Munich Court.

Alaver was stripped of his own state decorations just days after the allegations first emerged in the media, and well before he was found guilty – which in Alaver's case was at a closed-doors Harju County Court hearing in Tallinn.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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