On April 7, the Estonian anti-doping agency confirmed that both the A and the B samples of two-time Olympian Andrus Veerpalu (EST) came back positive for elevated levels of human growth hormone (HGH). The samples were collected on January 29, 2011, and the test results came back from the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) doping lab in Cologne (GER) on February 14. Veerpalu then withdrew from the 2011 World Championships in Oslo citing a virus infection and a knee injury.
At a press conference, Estonian coach Mati Alaver confirmed the Veerpalu took substances that increase the level of growth hormone, but claims that both are legal and the levels did not rise above the legal limit.
Veerpalu has maintained his innocence.
Odd-Bjørn Hjelemset, 39, was appalled and disappointed when he heard the news of Veerpalu’s positive doping test.
“I’ve always considered him a talented skier with superior technique and all that, and always admired him for being able to nail his peak for major events and championships. And that’s why we are so disappointed today,” Hjelmeset said to Norwegian news agency NTB.
“I think many of us feel cheated,” he said.
Hjelmeset, a veteran skier with almost 20 years on the Norwegian national team, looks at the bigger picture.
“You can’t do anything about the past. The worst part is that he cheated all of us,” Hjelmeset said, pointing out that he doesn’t buy that a knee injury caused Veerpalu to withdraw from the 2011 World Championships in Oslo at the last minute.
“I raced against Veerpalu in the World Cup in Otepää in January, where he delivered a strong fifth place. He was definitely not horribly injured at that point. If he were innocent, he should have come to Oslo and argued that his positive test was a mistake. He should have surfaced and fought for his innocence, and he would have received all the attention he wanted. That he didn’t do any of that, speaks volumes to me,” Hjelmset said.
The Norwegian veteran doesn’t believe this was the first time the 40-year-old Estonian cheated.
“He has won so many races and I’m sure he intended to do well at the World Championships this time as well. Of course he’s been doing this for a while. You don’t just start doping at age 40,” Hjelmeset argued.
From NTB, April 7, 2011. Translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.