Former Finnish ski coach arrested for drug smuggling

Finnish police have arrested a former national cross-country skiing coach on suspicion of smuggling drugs, months after he was fired after being involved in a doping scandal.

Kari-Pekka Kyro, the Finnish Ski Association's head coach who admitted administering banned substances to skiers at the World Nordic Skiing Championships in February, was arrested Monday, a security official said.

"He was arrested on suspicion of smuggling banned substances," said Kauko Aaltomaa, deputy chief of the National Bureau of Investigation.

He declined to give more details.

Six top Finnish cross-country skiers flunked dope tests at the championships in Lahti, southern Finland. They tested positive for HES, a banned plasma expander, injected into the blood to improve performance or hide the use of other banned substances.

The doping cases caused a scandal and threw a wide net of suspicion over Finnish cross-country skiing.

Finland forfeited four medals, including the men's team gold in the 4x10-kilometre relay and the women's silver in the 4x5km relay.

In addition to Kyro, two other top ski coaches were dismissed and banned for life. The team physicians who helped in injecting the banned substances resigned.

The male skiers who tested positive were Jari Isometsa, Mika Myllyla, Janne Immonen and veteran Harri Kirvesniemi, 42, a six-time Olympic competitor with 11 medals. The two women were Milla Jauho and Virpi Kuitunen.

All were banned from competition for two years.

In a report last month, a government-appointed working group said there were strong indications that Finnish skiers had used HES to cover up traces of EPO, or erythropoetin, that builds endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells.

Last week, Finnish sports officials decided to ban cross-country skiers from using all intravenous injections. The ban starts at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.