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Veerpalu served summons to appear in court in Austria

Andreas Veerpalu.
Andreas Veerpalu. Source: ERR

Tartu County Court confirmed on Wednesday that Estonian cross-country skier Andreas Veerpalu, who was caught using blood doping at the World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria in 2019, has been served his summons from an Austrian court. The case of his father Andrus Veerpalu has been adjourned.

"As of Wednesday, confirmation has reached the court that the summons have been personally delivered to Andreas Veerpalu," county court spokesperson Anett Kreitsmann told BNS.

The Austrian court requested Tartu County Court's assistance earlier in September and Veerpalu is due to appear in the court of Innsbruck this fall. The skier is accused by the Innsbruck prosecutor's office of violating anti-doping rules, that is sports fraud, in which he caused 12,000 euros in damage to sponsors. He was also charged with belonging to a criminal organization consisting of a doping doctor and other people involved.

On February 27, 2019, the Austrian police raided several athletes on suspicion of blood doping, apprehending five, among them Estonian skiers Veerpalu and Karel Tammjarv.

A German sports doctor, Mark Schmidt, has been discovered to be standing at the center of the doping ring exposed in Seefeld.

Andrus Veerpalu's trial adjourned

The handling of the trial of former Estonian cross-country skier and two-time Olympic champion Andrus Veerpalu, who was due to appear in court in Innsbruck in late August but did not show up, has been put on pause for the time being, daily Postimees (link in Estonian) writes.

Andrus Veerpalu, 50, is accused by the Innsbruck prosecutor's office of aiding doping by allowing athletes to administer blood doping in a room he was using in Seefeld in 2019. By doing so, Veerpalu caused damages of €5,000, according to the prosecution.

Under Austrian law, a person who commits fraud using doping or any other prohibited method is punishable by up to three years' imprisonment. The amount of the damage is not important.

Veerpalu was initially supposed to appear in court on November 16 of last year, but the sitting was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was then expected to appear in court on August 30 of this year, but did not show up. The Austrians had no evidence that the summons had reached Veerpalu. The sitting was concluded for the same reason.

For now, Veerpalu's trial has been adjourned. "Until we know his whereabouts, the proceedings against Andrus Veerpalu have been suspended," said Andreas Stutter, vice president of the regional court in Innsbruck.

On Tuesday, Stutter did not yet have information that the summons had reached Andreas Veerpalu. "We asked the Estonian authorities for mutual legal assistance, but so far it has not brought results," Stutter said.

Andrus Veerpalu Autor/allikas: Siim Semiskar/ERR SPORT

"Operation Bloodletting"

According to the International Ski Federation (FIS), Veerpalu violated their anti-doping rules, helping mediate and conceal the use of prohibited substances. Veerpalu cannot act as participant or trainer in any FIS events until March 17 2023. The skier did not appeal the court's decision.

At the end of February in 2019, a scandal broke out at the Seefeld Ski Championships in Austria, after police detained five athletes on suspicion of receiving illegal blood transfusion for the purpose of enhancing performances, during the sting operation termed "Operation Bloodletting".

Notorious German doping doctor Mark Schmidt mediated illegal blood transfusions through long-time Estonian national team coach Mati Alaver with Andrus Veerpalu also playing a key role in the doping ring, which also involved a Kazakh skier.

An Innsbruck-based prosecutor's office accused Andrus Veerpalu of aiding and abetting in sports fraud as the Estonian stood by as an athlete and Schmidt engaged in blood doping in Veerpalu's hotel room. Veerpalu's court case has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For more info, read ERR News' coverage here.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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