Prosecutor's Office: We take all information on Mehis Viru case seriously

Prosecutor's Office crest.
Prosecutor's Office crest. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Prosecutor's Office says it takes all information with the utmost sincerity regarding an athletics coach recently hit with a ban, following allegations of physical and psychological abuse.

The Prosecutor's Office made its remarks in relation to the ban handed out to athletics coach Mehis Viru last week. Viru has coached many top, young Estonian athletes.

Speaking to portal Delfi (link in Estonian) Kauri Sinkevicius, PR adviser at the prosecutor's office, said the office: "Is reviewing and analyzing things. Since criminal proceedings represent an intense violation of people's fundamental rights, any potential crime can be investigated if and when signs have been identified that indicate a crime has been committed."

At the same time, information covered in the media cannot be leaned on to draw rapid conclusions, though it is a valid source and piece of evidence in ascertaining whether a crime has been committed, during the course of criminal proceedings and within the framework of Estonia's Penal Code, Sinkevicius added.

Last Wednesday, the Estonian Athletics Association's (EKJL) board opted to impose an indefinite ban on Mehis Viru, relating to allegations of abuse, and psychological and sexual harassment

Proceedings took the testimony of four athletes, one of whom, high jumper Karmen Bruus, has stood by Viru, as have her parents, issuing a formal statement to that effect.

Former top decathlete: Difficult to have regulations covering all aspects of coaching

Former star decathlete Erki Nool said late last week that the EKJL had acted in the correct manner, adding that he, too, discovered the allegations via the media and noting that it is unlikely that the full details of the case will be made public any time soon.

At the same time, Nool told ERR radio news show "Uudis+" that, while Viru stands charged with violating the sports coaches' code of ethics, it is difficult to "legislate" for anything and everything, and many unwritten rules of conduct have emerged, just as they have in society as a whole, whether or not society follows these unwritten rules at all times.

Erki Nool Source: Janek Luts

Nool did state that a coach "constantly communicating" with one individual athlete from a group of 20-30 under his or her charged would be "strange".

Nool also said that there are two sides to every argument, that coaches often have to work hard to motivate youth athletes, and that malice can also be directed at a coach (one of Viru's principle defenses as stated to the media-ed.) and if this happens, that coach should be protected.

Appearing on the same radio show, chair of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOK) Urmas Sõõrumaa said: "I am not familiar with the details [of the case], but I am glad that Estonia is a democratic country to the extent that things are not covered up here and will come to light sooner or later. We are talking about a very respected person, one who has worked with many athletes and has been an example to young people."

Witness statements relate to last summer's U20 championships in Colombia

Three athletes gave sworn statements, in addition to Bruus; they are referred to as "athlete A", "athlete B" and "athlete C".

Most of the allegations relate to last summer's under 20s athletics world championship in Cali, Colombia, where several witnesses to Viru's alleged behavior described it as "inappropriate, unnatural, immoral, wrong, embarrassing or uncomfortable for the national team".

Not only the Estonian witnesses, but also Dmitrijs Miikevičs, Latvian former top athlete and now coach, highlighted that these related primarily to the relationship between Viru and Bruus.

Miikevičs described what he observed with this as "strange", to the extent that he initially assumed Viru was Bruus' father, so much time did the pair spend together, eating, walking around, sitting in the hotel lobby etc.

Mehis Viru with Karmen Bruus Autor/allikas: Priit Mürk/ERR

"The relationship between them also seemed inappropriate and seemed like seduction on the part of the coach. I didn't understand what was going on, but I thought there were signs of sexual harassment. I have two daughters and I would never allow such a relationship with an older man. In my opinion, this is completely wrong and deserves to be investigated," Miikevičs added.

Other wtiness affidavits describe much the same activity and an apparent controlling behavior on the part of Viru, towards Bruus, while some statmentes contrasted this with Viru arbitraily withdrawing communication from the witness, also an athlete, to the extent that it caused them distress.

The witness referred to as "athlete C" alleged that Viru had had sexual relations with Bruus on several occasions.

Bruus said late last week that she will not now be competing in the Estonian indoor athletics championships, as a result of the allegations.

Viru rejected the allegations when they were made public last Wednesday, and issued a formal statement to that effect on the Thursday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Maarja Värv, Janno Joala, Henrik Laever

Source: 'Uudis+' (interviewer Lauri Varik), Delfi, ERR Sport

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