Veerpalu will not go to hearing in Austria, decision to be made in absentia

Andreas Veerpalu.
Andreas Veerpalu. Source: ERR

Estonian cross-country skier Andreas Veerpalu, who was caught using blood doping at the World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria in 2019, will not travel to Austria for a court hearing on October 15. A decision will be made in absentia.

"The Defendant's counsel has stated that the defendant will not attend the main hearing. The court will therefore rule in absentia," said Andreas Stutter, vice president of the Innsbruck regional court.

Austrian authorities requested the assistance of Tartu County Court in serving a summons to Veerpalu. The skier was served summons on September 22 to appear in the Austrian court.

The 27-year old Veerpalu 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 Tammjärv.

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

The handling of the trial of former Estonian cross-country skier and the father of Andreas Veerpalu, Andrus Veerpalu, has been put on pause for the time being, daily Postimees (link in Estonian) wrote on September 22. The two-time Olympic champion 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.

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.

"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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