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Finnish Olympic Committee drops convicted racing sailor from Tokyo team

The committee said that Janne Järvinen, who faces a prison term, will not represent Finland at the Tokyo Olympics.

Janne Järvinen Sinem Kurtbay
Janne Järvinen and Sinem Kurtbay secured an Olympic berth for Finland in a Nacra 17 class qualifier last month in the Canary Islands. Image: Sailing Energy

The Finnish Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday that racing sailor Janne Järvinen, who has been sentenced to prison, will not represent Finland at this summer's Tokyo Olympics. However, it did not directly cite his conviction as the reason for dropping him for the team.

In late March, Järvinen and his sailing partner Sinem Kurtbay secured a berth for Finland in the Nacra 17 class for the Tokyo Games.

The committee has instead decided that Kurtbay will compete at the Games with a former sailing partner, Akseli Keskinen. They competed together at last year's World Championships, placing ninth.

According to Mika Lehtimäki, director of the committee's High Performance Unit, the selection was made on a sporting basis.

"Emphasis has been placed on the upward development of Akseli Keskinen's career in accordance with section 2 of the selection criteria, and on the fact that the Kurtbay/Keskinen pair has been better than the Kurtbay/Järvinen pair when competing at the global level," Lehtimäki said in a press release.

According to Lehtimäki, one factor was Keskinen's age, because at 21 he has more potential to succeed in the future than the 45-year-old Järvinen. Kurtbay, a 29-year-old Turkish-born Finn, placed 17th in the 49er X class at the 2013 World Championships.

Lehtimäki told Yle that his unit did not ask Kurtbay's opinion about the Olympic selection.

"The athletes know and commit in advance to how the selection will be made. We don't have discussions with each athlete about the choice itself, as this would become an endless swamp," Lehtimäki told Yle.

Lehtimäki said he had discussed it with Järvinen and "heard his views on the matter".

"Järvinen's punishment in conflict with our ethical principles"

On 8 April, just over a week after qualifying for the Olympics, Järvinen was convicted by Helsinki District Court of aggravated money laundering and being an accessory to aggravated narcotics offences. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

The verdict is not final, as Järvinen intends to appeal the judgment to a higher court.

"Järvinen's punishment and the nature of his actions are in sharp conflict with our ethical principles and responsibility programme, despite the fact that the issue is outside the world of sports," Olympic Committee chair Jan Vapaavuori said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"This time the choice was made on a purely sporting basis. If this had not been the case, the Board of the Olympic Committee would have seriously considered whether Järvinen could be sent to the Olympic Games. I think it is entirely possible that in that case he would not have been sent," added Vapaavuori, who is also mayor of Helsinki.

Charges were filed against Järvinen in January 2020 as part of an extensive drug case codenamed Katiska by police. Altogether 53 people were charged in the case.

Despite the serious criminal charges, Järvinen competed in the Laser Senior European Championship regatta in Gdansk, Poland, last October and the International Regatta in Lanzarote, Spain, last month.

After securing the team's ticket to Tokyo, the Finnish Sailing Federation and the Olympic Committee said there was no obstacle to Järvinen's participation because the judicial process was not related to sports.

Järvinen was a member of the Finnish national sailing team in 2017-19. He has funded his Olympic project himself and not received funding from the federation. Järvinen told commercial broadcaster MTV on Tuesday that if his participation in the Olympics is denied, he would appeal to the Finnish Sports Arbitration Board.

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