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Top official quits Finnish Olympic Committee after late-night texts

Mika Lehtimäki received an official warning after sending inappropriate messages to two female colleagues, according to Yle Sport.

Mika Lehtimäki katsoo vakavana alaspäin.
Mika Lehtimäki, former head of the Finnish Olympic Committee’s high-level sports unit, pictured at Monday's press conference. Image: Lehtikuva
Yle News

Mika Lehtimäki on Monday announced his resignation as director of the Finnish Olympic Committee's high-level sports unit.

Yle Sport reported that Lehtimäki received an official warning last autumn related to inappropriate behaviour against women in the workplace, which he accepted and said would lead to a change in his conduct.

"My actions have caused unreasonable harm to Finnish elite sports and the Olympic Committee. I have always thought and said that sport is bigger than any one individual and now it is time for me to live up to those words," Lehtimäki told the press conference.

"For this reason, and on my own initiative, it has been mutually agreed that I will leave my role with immediate effect," he said.

Lehtimäki added the incidents of inappropriate behaviour from the autumn affected two people, to whom he had sent messages late at night.

"A line was crossed in relation to the time and to the content of the message. The messages were too friendly. I understand that they have caused insecurity and anxiety. I made a mistake. This cannot be done in this position. The mistake is mine," he said.

Contract extended despite warning

Despite the warning, the Olympic Committee appointed Lehtimäki earlier this month to continue in his role as head of the top sports unit until 2024. The committee's secretary general and CEO, Mikko Salonen, chair of the board Jan Vapaavuori as well as vice chairs MP Sari Multala and Susanna Rahkamo were jointly responsible for that decision.

Last week, board chair Vapaavuori — a former mayor of Helsinki — defended the decision to extend Lehtimäki's contract, saying it was justified based on the undisputed merits of Lehtimäki's work and success with the unit.

Speaking at Monday's press conference, Vapaavuori stated that it is now in the best interests of "both the Olympic Committee and others" that Lehtimäki no longer remains in the role.

"In hindsight it is easy to see it would have been easier if Lehtimäki's contract extension had not been agreed," he said.

The Olympic Committee's board had not been informed in advance of the warning Lehtimäki received last autumn.

Yle Sport asked Vapaavuori how he thinks the situation was handled.

"I think I have complied with Finnish legislation here. No more can be demanded," he replied.

End of coaching career spanning 30 years

The Olympic Committee's high-level sports unit manages and coordinates elite Finnish sports and athletes in co-operation with sports federations and the Ministry for Education and Culture.

The subsidies received by associations and elite athletes are based on the preparatory work and selections of the unit led by Lehtimäki.

The 55-year-old Lehtimäki had previously worked in the unit as a programme director and sports group manager, before being appointed to lead the division.

Prior to that, he held various football and ice hockey coaching positions between 2005 and 2012 as well as other coaching roles since 1990. Lehtimäki has also previously worked as an athletics expert with Yle.

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