Myllyla part of 2001 scandal

HELSINKI -- Former Olympic cross-country skiing champion Mika Myllyla, who was involved in Finland's largest doping scandal in 2001, admitted using the banned blood booster EPO.

Finland's Channel Four TV reported Tuesday Myllyla acknowledged using the endurance-enhancing drug during questioning by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation last April.

"I have been personally injected with EPO, but won't say who gave it to me," Myllyla was quoted as telling officers, according to Channel Four. "It occurred during the course of my [skiing] career."

Myllyla gave no other details, according to the TV report. Channel Four did not say how it gained access to the testimony.

It was the first acknowledgment of EPO use by a top Finnish skier.

Myllyla, who has not competed since a two-year skiing ban ended in 2003, was one of six Finnish cross-country skiers who tested positive for banned substances at the world championships in Lahti, Finland.

The skiers tested positive for HES, a banned plasma expander, forfeiting four medals, including the men's team gold in the 4x10-kilometer relay and the women's silver in the 4x5-kilometer relay.

Police declined comment except to say they had questioned Myllyla, along with other top skiers, during their investigation.

"Even after this confession I cannot comment on the content of the story," Pauli Huuskonen, who headed the bureau's investigation, told Iltalehti newspaper.

Myllyla, who won the 30-kilometer race at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and took three world championship titles in 1999, is the third Finnish skier known to have used EPO.

In 2000, national-level skier Sami Heiskanen told investigators he had used the drug. In 2003, female cross-country skier Kaisa Varis tested positive for EPO during the 2003 world championships at Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Former ski coach Kari-Pekka Kyro, who acknowledged helping to dope skiers at Lahti, has said that there was systematic doping among Finnish skiers in the 1990s and that top trainers knew about it.

In 2004, Kyro was found guilty of smuggling banned substances and attempted fraud. He was convicted for importing EPO and growth hormones during 1999 and 2000.

Former Finnish long-distance runner Martti Vainio, who later became a sport researcher, also has said that the use of banned substances by top Finnish athletes was more common than earlier believed.

Vainio forfeited a silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 after testing positive for banned substances. In 2004, he said he had tried doping before Los Angeles and that the practice was common among Finnish athletes in the early 1980s.