Thursday, April 14, 2011

Questions about Veerpalu

Given the predictable and widespread eagerness to defend Andrus Veerpalu against the doping charges he's now facing, I have a few questions. I'm trying here not to pose loaded questions, since I'd love to see Veerpalu be clean. But at the same time, I have to wonder...

1. Why, if the positive test for HGH was (and thus still is) erroneous, did Veerpalu retire in February rather than own up to the fact (if not the correctness) of the positive test of the "A" sample and start to fight then and there? Why wait for the "B" sample test? Even if an athlete has to sit out the next races when a positive result comes back (and I don't know about this: do they?), why make up the story about the knee injury and abruptly retire?

2. How widespread is doping in Estonia? Though Veerpalu's case is only in its early stages, Kristina Šmigun-Vähi provides a precedent that might be good or bad, depending on your perspective. After a World Cup race in late 2001, she returned a positive "A" sample for an anabolic steroid. Her "B" sample came back negative, and she was allowed to race in the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. By that time, she'd already won two World Championship medals at Ramsau in 1999 as well as five World Cup races; she went on to win four more WSC medals at Val di Fiemme in 2003, three Olympic medals (two at Torino, one at Vancouver), and eleven more World Cups. Either she was a doper who got away with her offense, or a "false positive" who was correctly allowed to race.

3. Was the 2002 class of Olympic medalists the worst ever? Without impugning Beckie Scott or Frode Estil and Thomas Alsgaard (among others), and forgetting about the convicted dopers Muhlegg, Lazutina, and Danilova, check out these other medalists:
  • Yuliya Tchepalova (bronze in 15k freestyle mass start, silver in the 10k classic, and gold in sprint
  • Christian Hoffmann (gold in 30k freestyle mass start), and
  • Veerpalu (gold in 15k classic and silver in 50k classic).
Beyond that funny bunch, we also find Estonian Jaak Mae (bronze in 15k classic) and Russo-Austrian Mikhail Botvinov (silver in 30k freestyle mass start), whose big-race performances are suspiciously like those of Veerpalu and Hoffmann. And then there's Russian Mikhail Ivanov, who is surely one of the greatest few-hit wonders ever: the inherited gold in the 50k classic (after Muhlegg's DSQ), a bronze in the 30k at the 2001 Lahti Worlds (cough cough), and four podiums on the World Cup, all in 2000 or 2001.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Veerpalu's Shame

From (via the World of XC news aggregator and a Google translation):

It's official: Andrus Veerpalu was in A and B samples test positive for growth hormone. Yet he still denies having doped. As at a press conference of the Estonian Ski Association, was attended by among others Veerpalu itself, Mati Alaves coach and doctor Jüri Laasik was posted on Thursday, both A-and B-sample in the case Andrus Veerpalu are positive. The positive sample came from 14 February - not, as was leaked in advance, of 29 January. In both samples, the growth hormone HGH has been found - but it is not about doping, as Veerpalu said. "On 15 February I received the shocking news that my A-sample is positive," said Veerpalu, the eight days later ended his career with 40 years of age. "I want to tell everyone that I have never taken banned substances to me. All victories and good results were the result of hard work." Still, he apologized in lump sums to all that he had disappointed. Veerpalu and Dr. Jüri Laasik declared that they had under the existing WADA rules are not used to be able to say the truth about the positive test. Alaves coach Mati turned even further behind today's athletes.
Veerpalu's peer and competitor in classic races, Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset, minces no words (even through a Google Translate filter):
I am simply annoyed. Andrus Veerpalu is a scammer and old-fashioned cheater... He has won so many ski [races] and had certainly going to do well in this World Cup too. It is clear that he has held for so long. You doper you not the first time that 40-year-old.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Was Almost Positive about Veerpalu

I've commented on this blog several times on Andrus Veerpalu, who is on the one hand an elegant, gutsy skier whom I always enjoyed watching but who on the other hand always seemed suspiciously able to pull off big races. Well, comes this story from an Estonian newspaper (and reported on - translation by Google):

The Estonian newspaper Postimees writes on his website that the cross-country skier Andrus Veerpalu gave positive doping test at the end of January. (02.04.2011 - NTB)
40-year-old retired in February, just before the World Cup in Holmenkollen.
According to Postimees' sources, there is a doping sample taken during training camp in Otepää, Estonia has been shown to be positive. Neither the FIS or the Estonian Ski Federation has confirmed that it is passed positive doping test. Veerpalu even deny it. Estonian has won both Olympic and World Championship gold. Veerpalu said he retired because of knee problems.