”Mika was one of the best skiers of all time, and this sad news will surely touch the whole skiing world,” Alakoski said. ”I remember his first central Ostrobothnia regional championship, where he surprised everyone in the 30km race as a 17-year-old boy. I was there that day following the competition, and it was already clear then that this boy would become a champion skier.”
Myllylä has recently been in the news primarily in a negative light because of the post-mortem on Finland’s disastrous World Championships in 2003, when Myllylä and several members of the Finnish team tested positive for blood doping, and for recent difficulties in his personal life. Myllylä was convicted of drink-driving in 2008, and again in 2010.
”He should be remembered as a great athlete,” said Alakoski. ”It feels horrible that the events in Lahti already have such a heavy price. Mika changed completely as a person on the day his doping was made public. It has been sad to watch his descent and anguish from the sidelines over the last ten years. This is a dark day in the history of Ostrobothnian cross-country skiing.”
"Passing into eternity"
Former CEO of the Finnish Ski Association, Jari Piirainen, said that his thoughts were with Myllylä’s family.
”A champion has passed into eternity,” said Piirainen, who was acquitted of aggravated fraud in a recent trial relating to his statements during a libel trial about an STT story that alleged doping was rife in Finnish skiing. ”Although Mika will of course be remembered for his sporting achievements, we should of course remember that he was also a father. The grief his relatives and loved ones are feeling now can only be imagined.”
Piirainen believes that the Myllylä case has lessons for the media and the sporting public, as the publicity of the last ten years took a heavy toll on Myllylä.
”Maybe it’s just that, how much pressure we put on our idols and sportsmen,” reflected Piirainen. ”And how do we deal with them when they are at the top – do we accept that people are people and accept that everyone makes mistakes, and forgive them?”