Doping scandal continues: EOK chief calls on Veerpalu to come out of hiding

Estonian Olympic Committee President Urmas Sõõrumaa.
Estonian Olympic Committee President Urmas Sõõrumaa. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Since the doping scandal implicating a number of Estonian skiers and ski coach Mati Alaver broke last week, skier and Olympic medalist Andrus Veerpalu hasn't been seen in days. President of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOK) Urmas Sõõrumaa is now calling on Mr Veerpalu to come out and speak, adding that he still has the chance to right his wrongs.

Asked whether the EOK had the opportunity to pressure the Veerpalus into talking to the committee about what had happened, Mr Sõõrumaa said they had just received fairly severe punishments.

"It is their fault that they have very much damaged our reputation and they have not volunteered themselves to provide any explanations, to help us," he said. "This is why we took such a severe approach with them as well."

Nonetheless, he called on Andrus Veerpalu to come out and talk.

"I believe that not just I, but many others are compassionate and understanding," Mr Sõõrumaa said. "Regardless of how one got involved in such trouble, it is always possible to make things right."

The executive committee of the EOK convened on Tuesday to discuss matters related to the doping scandal that broke in Seefeld, Austria last week.

The executive committee is to submit to the EOK's plenary its recommendations to release ski coach Mati Alaver from his position as a member of the executive committee as well as strip both Mr Alaver and Mr Veerpalu of their EOK membership. The committee has also recommended both men be stripped of their trainer certifications.

Veerpalu's Olympic medals safe for now

The EOK found, however, that they currently lack grounds for stripping Mr Veerpalu of his three Olympic medals, earned in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Torino in 2006.

"We currently lack any sort of evidence for stripping Andrus Veerpalu of his Olympic medals," EOK Secretary General Siim Sukles said on Vikerraadio's Vikerhommik programme on Wednesday morning. "As far as we are concerned, he remains an Olympic champion."

Besides, he added, the EOK lacks the authority to strip anyone of their Olympic medals; only the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can do so.

According to Mr Sukles, the current doping scandal dates back only to 2016, about which skier Karel Tammjärv and Mati Alaver have spoken.

He has not spoken to Mr Veerpalu himself, and does not know where the latter may currently be located. "But I have a feeling he is at home with his family, and I hope that at some point in the near future he will come out and say what he has to say."

Mr Veerpalu won gold in the 15km classical event at both the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, and won silver in the 50km classical event in Salt Lake City.

Clues lead back to Alaver, Veerpalu

Last Wednesday, Austrian authorities arrested Estonian cross-country skiers Karel Tammjärv and Andreas Veerpalu, who confessed to having used blood doping. Skier Algo Kärp likewise admitted on Tuesday that he has done the same in the past.

The case has been connected to Estonian cross-country ski coach Mati Alaver and three-time Olympic medalist Andrus Veerpalu, the former of whom admitted to having shared contact information for German sports doctor Mark Schmidt with Mr Tammjärv and Mr Kärp. Mr Veerpalu has yet to comment on the matter.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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