Helsinki, Finland Ã¢â‚¬â€ A former top Finnish skier and an ex-ski coach were given suspended sentences on Thursday for lying during an investigation into doping in Finnish cross-country skiing in the 1990s.
The Helsinki District Court imposed a 12-month suspended sentence on skier Jari Rasanen for failing to tell the truth about the use of doping and handed coach Pekka Vahasoyrinki a nine-month term for lying about providing banned substances to skiers. It was not clear whether Rasanen and Vahasoyrinki would appeal. Two other accused ski officials were acquitted of the same offense.
The investigation began in 1998, when Finnish news agency STT ran a story accusing Finnish skiers of widespread doping. 19 leading ski officials sued the news agency for libel. STT edtor Kari Vaisanen and reporter Johanna Aatsalo were found guilty in 2000. A year later, six cross-country skiers tested positive for banned substances at the world championships. The skiers, one of which was a six-time Olympic competitor with 11 medals, tested positive for a banned plasma expander. The Finnish team forfeited four medals, including the men’s team gold in the 4×10-kilometer relay and the women’s silver in the 4×5-kilometer relay.
The doping investigation reopened in April 2008 after Finland’s Channel Four TV reported that the Finnish Ski Association had covered up the “organized and systematic use of banned substances” by skiers in the 1990s. Two months later, former ski coach Kari-Pekka Kyro, who has acknowledged helping skiers dope and was found guilty in 2004 of smuggling banned substances and attempted fraud, made allegations that there had been systematic doping among Finnish cross-country skiers and that ski officials and trainers knew about it.
Aatsalo, the former STT reporter who was found guilty of libel in 2000 said Thursday’s verdict was a relief.
“This case has been going on since 1998,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Today’s a good day for me.”