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Russian Programme Involved in Doping Case?

In an ongoing doping scandal in Finland, the prosecution is accusing several figures from the former leadership of the Finnish Skiing Association of condoning the use of forbidden substances to achieve success during the Nagano Olympics.

The prosecution says that in the 1990s former association director Jari Piirainen, former manager Pekka Vähäsöyrinki and former head coach Antti Leppävuori were aware that the training programme for the Nagano Olympics, brought from Russia, involved the use of performance enhancing substances.

Journalists from the STT news agency reported on the matter in 1998, but were convicted for defamation. Comments from former coach Kari-Pekka Kyrö, who said in 2008 that doping was indeed widespread in Finnish skiing, reopened the case. The prosecution accuses Piirainen, Vähäsöyrinki, Leppävuori and former competitive skier Jari Räsänen of having lied for financial gain at the trial of the journalists.

The accused have requested that the trial be conducted behind closed doors, but the prosecution refused.

Kyrö claims that payment for the programme was transferred to Russia via Piirainen.

“Jari participated, I remember seeing with my own eyes. He met with those Russians in connection with the pharmacological immunity project in Vuokatti. He has most likely organised the payments to do with that,” Kyrö said during police questioning.

He also said that Piirainen was fully aware of the proliferation of doping substances in Finnish skiing.

The pre-trial hearings in the case began on Wednesday, but the main trial proceedings will start on April 27 and continue well into June.

Piirainen and other former association leaders have denied all charges and claimed to have no knowledge of the 1990s programme. One of them stated during questioning that the programme could under no circumstances be used in Finland, because nobody could be that stupid.

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