Features 25 September 2020

Documentary alleges Mati Alaver orchestrated blood doping in skiing

Mati Alaver, former coach of the Estonian national ski team, orchestrated blood doping through cooperation with Dr. Mark Schmidt and Tarvo Kiudma, the team’s doctor, an investigation by Estonian journalists has found. Journalists from Eesti Televison (ETV), Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR), and Ekspress Meedia discovered that doping equipment was obtained from Dr. Schmidt, who is currently on trial in Germany, using Ski Team Haanja funds. Doping may have been facilitated via blank prescriptions provided by Kiduma – although exactly how the prescriptions were used was not discovered.

Journalists found blank prescriptions issued by the Estonian ski team’s doctor…

Information was obtained via a lawsuit granting access to the documents used by the Harju County Court to sentence Alaver to a one year suspended prison sentence, with 18 months probation, in November last year. In addition, journalists obtained information from his diaries and via interviews with the prosecutor, Taavi Pern. The results of the investigation were broadcast in the first half of an Estonian magazine show, Pealtnägija, on Wednesday (video below).

Journalists found that Dr. Schmidt used an alias, ‘David Novak’ when communicating with Alaver about doping. Through this, Alaver helped former Estonian skiing star Andrus Veerpalu to arrange blood doping for his son, Andreas Veerpalu, as well as for Algo Kärp, Karel Tammjärv and Alexei Poltoranin, a Kazakh athlete whose trainer was Andrus Veerpalu. As shown in the picture on the right, Alaver was also keen to obtain substances such as IGF-1 (a growth hormone), writing that it had been identified as popular with top athletes by German biologist Werner Franke.

In October last year, the Estonian State Prosecutor charged Alaver with a criminal offence involving administering doping to the four athletes named above between 2016 and 2019. It is understood that Kiudma was fined €200 by Terviseamet, Estonia’s health board, after prosecutors informed it about the blank prescriptions.

Investigations in Estonia began in March 2019, after Tammjärv, Andreas Veerpalu, and Algo Kärp were implicated in Operation Aderlass, an investigation into the customers of Dr. Schmidt. Kärp confessed to doping, also in March, after his teammates were implicated.

On 2 January this year, the international ski federation (FIS) sanctioned Alaver, Tammjärv, Andreas Veerpalu, and Poltoranin with four year bans. Kärp was sanctioned with a two and a half year ban in April; whilst Andrus Veerpalu’s case is still pending.

The Operation Aderlass investigations began after cross country skier Johannes Dürr confessed to using blood transfusions, erythropoietin (EPO) and growth hormones. This led Austrian police to arrest nine people in a February 2019 raid in Seefeld, one of whom was caught red handed whilst receiving a blood transfusion. It is understood that over 30 athletes have been implicated via the investigation.

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