NewsBiathlete Kaisa Varis Suspected of Doping Violation

FasterSkier FasterSkierJanuary 31, 2008

According to the Finnish Biathlon Association (FBA), a doping sample presented by biathlete Kaisa Varis has been found to contain illegal substances. The FBA was informed of the positive test by the International Biathlon Union (IBU). The FBA states, in a website communique, that none of its officials have had any part or involvement in the matter.

Varis has won one biathlon World Cup competition this season, a 7.5km sprint event at Ruhpolding earlier this month. She issued a statement to the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) as follows: “According to the information I have received from the IBU, I am under suspicion of a doping offense. These suspicions are unfounded, and I have requested that the matter should be examined further in the normal way. Given the ongoing nature of the process, this matter is not public. I am nevertheless permitted to bring to light the suspicions held against me, and I do so of my own volition.”

On a previous occasion, Kaisa Varis was found guilty of doping in 2003, when she gave a positive sample at the Nordic Skiing World Championships in Val di Fiemme. The sample contained traces of a type of erythropoietin, or EPO, used widely in endurance sports as a blood booster and performance-enhancing agent. Immediately prior to the positive test, Varis had been prevented from taking part in another event at the championships because of raised haemoglobin levels.

Varis received a two-year ban from competition and the Finnish women's relay team, of which she was a member, was obliged to surrender the silver medals they won at the World Championships. She was also initially thought to be implicated in the infamous plasma expander doping scandal that rocked Finnish cross-country skiing at the 2001 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, but was later cleared of involvement.

She returned to the sport after serving the ban, but was not selected for the Torino Olympics in spite of showing good form, and later in 2006 she switched to biathlon, where she made her World Cup debut in March 2007. According to IBU rules, Varis has the right to provide an explanation of the matter and to demand the processing of a B-sample. Before that time, no decision will be taken in the matter. If the second sample proves positive, Varis is likely to face a lifetime ban. She has temporarily been suspended from competition by the Finnish Biathlon Association pending the outcome of the laboratory tests.

Finland's Minister of Culture Stefan Wallin, whose portfolio also covers sports, commented in a statement that the IBU announcement was a “grave reminder” of the need to continue to tackle doping in Finland, but he stressed that further tests were pending.

SOURCE: Helsingin Sanomat, International Edition, Sport

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