Kazakh skier Alexei Poltoranin has been effectively cleared of blood doping by his country's government. Poltoranin was seized by Austrian police on 27 February at around the same time as two Estonian skiers were detained, all under suspicion of blood doping.
Poltoranin, who could not partake in the men's classic race after being picked up by Austrian police just half an hour before the race start, did not engage in blood doping, said Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sport Arystanbek Muhamediuly on Tuesday. He did, however, intend to use it at some point, the minister added.
"Fortunately, Poltoranin did not use blood doping. He visited a doctor in Germany and had a blood test. It has been proven," the minister was quoted by Interfax as saying.
"The athlete is not to blame for taking doping. Rather, he is to blame for intending to do so. And his head coach has said that there was no blood transfusion. No re-ejection of the athlete's own blood occurred. The Austrian police service officially stated this. We have lodged a relevant inquiry," Mr Muhamediuly continued.
The two Estonian skiers, Karel Tammjärv and Andreas Veerpalu, also missed the same race for the same reason, as did two Austrian skiers.
All the skiers were thought to have been engaged in blood doping, with individuals visiting the skiers at Seefeld, where the competition was taking place being under surveillance over a long period prior to the police swoop.
A German doctor, Mark Schmidt, was also detained, in Erfurt, Germany. Schmidt is thought to have been the main blood doping supplier, having been involved in similar activities with Tour de France cyclists for as long as a decade.
Intricate web of links
German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt has also claimed that Alaver is the subject of an investigation into a potential international doping ring.
Whilst Andreas Veerpalu returned to Estonia without making comment after being released on the evening of 28 February, together with his father, three-time olympic medallist Andrus Veerpalu, who himself was at the centre of a ski doping case in 2011-2013, Karel Tammjärv, together with trainer Anti Saarepuu, appeared in a press conference on the morning of 1 March.
A third Estonian skier, Algo Kärp, subsequently came forward and admitted to blood doping activities as well.
Joining the dots further, Poltoranin has been coached by Andrus Veerpalu for some years, and his team has other links with Team Haanja, Andreas Veerpalu and Karel Tammjärv's team.
Another connection sees advocate Marko Pilv representing Alaver. Mr Pilv's father, Aivar, represented Andrus Veerpalu, who was later cleared of doping by an international sports arbitration court.
The Kazakh culture and sports ministry is reportedly backing Poltaranin further, despite his supposed intentions, "in order to have his penalty mitigated," Mr Muhamediuly added, notwithstanding the ministry's overal stance in opposition to blood doping.
Editor: Andrew Whyte