Estonian coach Mehis Viru says has never been in inappropriate relationships with students

  • 2023-02-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Coach Mehis Viru, who received an indefinite ban on activity in the field of athletics on Wednesday, said that he has behaved in an exemplary manner as a coach and as a person and with care towards those he trains, the Estonian daily Postimees writes.

Viru's initial comment was forwarded by his representative and sworn advocate Maria Magi-Rohtmets.

"I confirm that I have behaved in an exemplary manner as a coach and as a person and with care towards those I train. I have not knowingly behaved in a way that could be considered in any way beyond the bounds of good behavior or that would give reason to consider it a violation of the coach's code of ethics. I have never been in an inappropriate relationship with or physically abused any student," Viru said.

"The decision made by the Estonian Athletic Association regarding me is shocking to me. Unfortunately, I have not been presented with any documents during the entire investigation or even today that would allow me to familiarize myself with the accusations and the content of the decision in greater detail, so it is very difficult to comment on this decision in detail at the moment, and I can only share my own views with you," he added.

According to Viru, his goal as a coach has always been to help athletes realize their natural talents in top-level sports and take them to the top of the world.

"As a coach, I have prioritized the welfare of athletes so they can focus solely on achieving the best result. It is very saddening if my benevolent attitude has been misinterpreted," he said.

According to the regional Tartu Postimees, the Estonian Athletic Association pointed out on Wednesday that the investigation into the case of coach Mehis Viru started last August at the 2022 World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia, when the head of the Latvian delegation, Dmitrijs Milkevics, made a statement because he considered the behavior between Viru and high jumper Karmen Bruus to be strange.

Association president Erich Teigamagi said that the incident started based on the relationship between Viru and Bruus. "It concerns Bruus in the extent that the statements were made on the basis of the relationship between her and the coach, in the opinion of those who made these statements, but the proceedings expanded and the period 2005-2022 was then discussed, the main decisions were made on the basis of the proceedings," Teigamagi said.

"We made agreements with the parents of Karmen Bruus parents when we started training her to ensure Karmen's well-being and safety both during training and competitions. I was guided by these agreements at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali as well. It was thanks to the mutual understanding and good cooperation between the young athlete, her parents and coaches that Karmen was able to realize her potential that year -- to become the junior world champion," Viru said.

"I am of the firm opinion that in the case of such serious accusations that were made public today, an objective investigation and a properly conducted process to find out the truth is extremely important. Until now, I have fully supported the purposeful activities of the Estonian Athletic Association and the Estonian Center for Integrity in Sports (ESTCIS) and hoped for a clear, comprehensible and transparent procedure with my cooperation," he added.

"Unfortunately, the whole process has been covered by a veil of secrecy and anonymity, which gave the impression that an assumption deeming me guilty had already been generated and a decision had been made. I do not know if the motive for this process is someone's human envy or even Erich Teigamagi's personal grudge for criticism of the association's funding made years ago to the press," Viru said.

According to Viru, the suspicion of malice is increased by the fact that he found out about the submission of statements to the association from the media, which had already received relevant confirmation from the association.

"Furthermore, during the entire process, even after repeated inquiries, I am still confused as to what procedure and on what grounds is being carried out in relation to me, what violations of the coaches' code of ethics I am accused of," he added.

"The last few months have been very difficult for me mentally. I am very grateful to have had the support of my family throughout this process. I intend to protect my honor and dignity," Viru said.

The board of the Estonian Athletic Association on Wednesday issued an indefinite ban on activity in the field of athletics to Mehis Viru.

The board of the association found that Viru has repeatedly and over a long period of time significantly violated points of the coaches' code of ethics and the professional requirements of a coach, according to which a coach must recognize everyone's contribution and the right not to be verbally, physically and sexually harassed and exploited, as well as behave correctly and serve as an example to everyone.

Viru's violations are of such a nature that, according to the board of the association, he is not fit to work as a coach or other sports personnel, the Estonian Athletic Association said.