Presidential hopeful denies doping charges

  • 2001-03-08
  • BNS
TALLINN - Toomas Savi, Estonian parliamentary speaker and presidential candidate, denied reports on March 5 that he acted as an intermediary in supplying performance-enhancing drugs that were later traced to two Finnish sportsmen in 1968.

Savi told reporters that he had never traded in illegal substances, neither in his years as a competing athlete nor in his capacity as a sports doctor.

Savi, who was a doctor with the Soviet decathlon team in the 1970s, said it was only in 1970 that a list of forbidden substances was printed, and that it was not until the 1976 Olympics in Montreal that athletes were tested for such substances.

Savi is a member of the ruling coalition's Reform Party and one of the top contenders for the office of president in elections scheduled for this fall.

Savi said his job as a sports doctor was to cure injuries, but many athletes also asked him about doping.

"And when athletes asked me something, I answered precisely within the scope of the information I possessed at the time," he said. "I have not given or recommended doping to anyone."

Savi admitted giving the substances to the Finns in 1968, a fact revealed in the press in Tallinn on Feb. 5, while a champion javelin thrower and fourth-year medical student. He said he did not know about any side effects of the substance he gave to the Finns.

Finnish Olympic gold medal winner in 1968, Pauli Nevala, was quoted by the daily Eesti Paevaleht as saying that he and Jorma Kinnunen, the silver medal winner, received the substances from Savi in return for an aluminum javelin made by the Heldi company - considered state of the art at the time.

Savi offered a different version of the story. He said that after he had thrown his personal best of 81.20 meters during a competition in the Finnish town of Kotka in 1967, Nevala promised to present him with a Heldi javelin if he finished first. But Nevala won the competition, with a foul that went unnoticed. This explained why Nevala gave the javelin to him later. After ending his career as an athlete, Savi worked as doctor with the Soviet Union's decathlon team from 1970-1979.

Eesti Paevaleht pointed out that on the web page of the Estonian Parliament Savi makes no mention either of his position as a doctor with the decathlon team or of the book entitled "The Doping ABC," which he published in 1993.

Savi told reporters that he used his employer's name in his CV and that during the time he served as doctor with the Soviet team he was formally employed by a sports medical center in Tartu, Estonia.

Savi added that while he has never thought he should be ashamed of the publication on doping he compiled, he considered it inappropriate to reveal anything about the small information booklet in his CV.