New Trial Indicates Extensive Finnish Doping

Inge ScheveApril 15, 2011

A decade after the devastating 2001 doping scandal that surfaced during the World Championships in Lahti, Finland, new evidence are still surfacing.

The landmark doping case from the 2001 World Championships involved six Finnish racers (Jari Isometsä, Janne Immonen, Harri Kirvesniemi, Mika Myllälä, Milla Jauho and Virpi Kuitunen) as well as former head coach Kari-Pekka Kyrö and three officials in the Finnish ski association administration. During the 2001 World Championships doping tests of the above-mentioned racers revealed traces of the substance Hemohes. This substance can be used to mask other doping substances.

Mika Myllylä has already admitted to using EPO. He explained that he received EPO as injections, but will not reveal who gave him the injections or if other racers were using the same program.  Myllylä won an Olympic gold medal in 1998, and four World Championship gold medals (1997 and 1999). He had an amazing ability to nail his peaking leading up to the major championships.

Organized blood doping

Now, a new trial, which started in the Finnish courts on March 29, 2011, revolves around the details published by the Finnish news agency FNB in 1998. Four Finns are accused of lying during a trial that followed those FNB reports in 1998. The FNB material indicates that the Finnish ski team was involved in organized blood doping even prior to the 1997 World Championships in Trondheim.

Kyrö says that Myllylä, Kirvesniemi, Isometsä and Immonen received EPO injections during a training camp in Oslo in 1999.

In the new trial, Kyrö also says that former ski racer Räsänen had blood drawn during the 1997 World Championships in Trondheim. According to Kyrö, they did this to reduce the hemoglobin levels, which had spiked due to the EPO.

Räsänen and three former team directors from the Finnish Ski Association are being tried for perjury and lying under oath in the case against the news agency FNB. Räsänen claims it is all some sort of revenge by Kyrö.

Kyrö argues that all of the three national team directors were aware of the organized doping in the team. The former national team coach also claims that he received a bag full of EPO and growth hormones from the cross-country team director Pekka Vähäsöyrinki.

The bag is said to have been brought to a training camp in Oslo in 1999, where the EPO injections were administered to the racers on the Finnish relay team, consisting of Mika Myllylä, Harri Kirvesniemi, Jari Isometsä and Janne Immonen.

The team physician Pirkka Mäkelä claims he had no part of the cheating, but did register soaring blood values in some of the racers starting the fall of 1997.

The prosecutors are asking for prison terms for the four involved: Jari Räsänen and the most prominent officials in the Finnish Ski Association – Pekka Vähäsöyrinki, Antti Leppävuori and Jari Piirainen.

Räsänen is the one facing the harshest punishment if he is found guilty: prison for 20 months.

All of the four accused deny any knowledge of doping in Finnish skiing. They claim they are being setup as scapegoats.

Paid to take the blame for Finnish cheating

Former ski racer Jari Isometsä was offerend 1 million Finnish marks, or more than 260,000 US dollars, if he took the fall for the Finnish doping scandal in 2001.

Isometsä was the skier first caught for doping during those World Championships in Lahti, Finland. Shortly after that, five additional Finnish racers were caught: Janne Immonen, Harri Kirvesniemi, Mika Myllylä, Milla Jauho and Virpi Kuitunen.

Isometsä won the silver medal in the 20K pursuit during those Championships, but was later disqualified. The new winner was Johann Mühlegg, who was caught doping during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The new trial is expected to last until the end of April, 2011.

From, March 30 and 31, 2011. Translation by Inge Scheve

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.

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