7 March 2019

Estonian Ski Association says those involved in doping will face life ban

The Estonian Ski Association (ESL) has said that all those proven to be involved in blood doping, or in covering up blood doping, will face a life ban from working in Estonian skiing. The ESL make the announcement after a third Estonian cross country skier, Algo Kärp, told Öhtuleht that he had also utilised blood doping, including during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. 

‘The Board of the Estonian Ski Association has also adopted a decision that all athletes and associated support staff who have deliberately utilised doping […] are no longer entitled to participate in the Estonian team or in training in the future, or to represent Estonia at major competitions, including international competitions, or to hold ESL jobs or Directorships at the Estonian Ski Union’, read an ESL statement, which also announced the provisional suspension of Kärp. 

However, whether such a ban could survive legal challenge remains debatable. In 2011, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) struck out the ‘Osaka Rule’, which was based on Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter and prevented athletes who have been sanctioned with a doping ban of six months or more from participating in the next edition of the Olympic Games. It did so because it viewed such a rule as violating the legal principle non bis in idem – or double jeopardy – which prevents somebody from being punished twice for the same offence. It could be argued that the ESL’s decision also violates this principle.

Kärp’s confession means that three of seven cross country skiers that Estonia sent to Korea have confessed to blood doping. Karel Tammjärv and Andreas Veerpalu were two of the five athletes initially arrested by police in Austria and Germany at the end of last month. In an interview with FasterSkier, Tammjärv confessed to doping since 2016, prompted by a fall in form.

Estonia’s involvement in the doping investigation prompted a meeting between the government’s Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Justice, the State Prosecutor’s Office, the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOC), the ESL and Estonia Anti-Doping (EAD) representatives. ‘It was agreed by the Ministry of Justice that in the upcoming months, a joint assessment of existing regulation in order to reach the best solution will take place’, read a statement. It is understood that one option being considered is the launch of a national sports integrity body, similar to that which has recently been authorised by the Australian government.

Austrian cyclists provisionally suspended

Austrian cyclists Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler have been provisionally suspended by the international cycling union (UCI), after confessing their involvement in the doping network being investigated by Austrian and German police. ‘After review of all elements in its possession, the UCI has decided to provisionally suspend both riders with immediate effect pursuant to Article 7.9.3 of the UCI Anti- Doping Rules’, read a statement. Statements issued by the Austrian anti-doping agency (ÖADR) confirmed that both cyclists have been provisionally suspended on suspicion of autologous blood doping, under section M1 of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List.

It is understood that another Austrian skier has been detained by prosecutors in Innsbruck after police interviewed cross country skier Johannes Dürr, who tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It is understood that under the supervision of Dr. Mark Schmidt, Dürr continued to dope until the end of 2018.

In January, Dürr admitted that he had used blood transfusions, EPO and growth hormones in an interview with reporters, broadcast by Sportschau on Germany’s ARD. It is understood that this interview sparked the initial investigations by Austrian and German police.

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