Rasanen was given a 12-month suspended sentence for failing to tell the truth about the use of doping while Vahasoyrinki was given a 9-month suspended sentence. It is not known at this time whether or not they will appeal the verdict. Two other defendants, Jari Piiranen and Antti Leppavouri, were acquitted of the same offence.
The investigation involved a libel case against the Finnish news agency, STT, brought by the defendants who claimed that a 1998 story by reporter Johanna Aatsalo and editor Kari Vaisanen was false. The two were found guilty of libel and originally received suspended prison sentences that were later revoked for fines upon appeal.
This brings to a close one of the long and sordid chapters about doping in cross-country skiing. This story includes the positive tests of six skiers at the 2001 Lahti World Championships and the loss of four medals, the admission of skiers Mykka Myllyla that he used EPO, another admission by national level xc skier Sami Heiskanen, and the positive EPO test result of Kaisa Varis in 2003.
The positive tests in 2001 in Lahti ushered in the first big steps forward in the fight against doping in xc skiing. Up until that time there had been no real testing or even will to test, in a sport that was ripe for the use of EPO and blood doping – and full of rumours of “dirty” athletes.
These results were followed in 2002 by the positive results at the Olympics in Salt Lake City for the use of EPO by Spanish skier Johann Mulhegg and Russian skiers Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina. The latter two positive tests resulted in Beckie Scott moving from a bronze medal to her rightful gold medal in the 10km women’s pursuit race.
Since that time there have been many more positive doping tests in cross-country skiing. As a result we have seen a drop in the formerly powerful Russian team and a rise in the North American teams from Canada and the US who are now able to compete on a much more level playing field than was possible in the 1980s and 1990s.
Doping has not been fully eradicated from cross-country ski racing and it likely never will be. However, there is much more testing and attention being paid to doping by sports governing bodies like the IOC, FIS and WADA. This means that young skiers with talent and the motivation to work hard have a much better chance to compete and succeed at the highest levels of the sport.
Catching more people doping can be seen as a black mark for a sport, but I don’t agree. The more skiers that are caught the better the sport will be in the long run.
Having coached internationally during the 1980s and 1990s I believe that this era was the so-called black mark for the sport of cross-country skiing. Doping was rampant at this time and no one was caught. Skiers not doping at this time had little or no chance to succeed. Looking back at this time it makes the results of athletes like Pierre Harvey and Bill Koch even more impressive.
If you look at the results from Finland since 2001 you can see the impact of the increased vigilance against doping. The Finnish results dropped sharply after 2001 and have stayed relatively poor until recently. Even now they do not have the steady top results that they had in the 1980s and 1990s under coaches like Pekka Vahasoyrinki.
Most of their best results from the late 1980s and 1990s were by skiers who were caught doping in 2001 and it makes you wonder just how long they had been doping before they were caught. It is my hope that skiers and coaches who are tempted by doping in the future will look at the results of trials like this STT trial and this case will be a deterrent for them to use doping to get ahead. Eventually the truth will come out because a secret is not a secret if more than one person knows about it.
Read more HERE.