Veerpalu had the support of his coach, team doctor and the national anti-doping agency. (Photo: Ivo Kruusamägi)
TALLINN -- Estonian Olympic Gold Medalist Andrus Veerpalu, 40, has tested positive for banned substances, the second doping scandal involving Baltic athletes in as many days.
The Estonian Ski Association announced on April 7 that tests in Feburary found a growth hormone in Veerpalu's samples, the AP reported.
Veerpalu, who announced his resignation from professional sport shortly after hearing of the findings, denies any wronddoing.
The athlete's coach, the team physician and Estonian Anti-Doping Agency representative Juri Laasik have all come to his defense, saying that the methods for testing may have difficulty telling the difference between natural and artificial levels of the hormone.
"Some laboratories claim that their methodology can tell the difference between natural and artificial growth hormone, but it can't quite be taken as fact, and there is no consensus among specialists," said Laasik.
The news comes on on the heels of an announcement by The Lithuanian Athletic Federation that it would strip marathon runner Zivile Balciunaite of the gold medal she won at last year's European Athletics Championship.
The LAF also gave the Lithuanian athlete, who was found to have increased levels of testosterone after the race, a two year ban on competition, ending her hopes of taking part in the London Olympics next year.
"The LAF disciplinary board has completed a study to examine all the facts and make the right decision for Balciunaite's suspicion of doping," LAF president Eimantas Skrabulis said.