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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 15:30 GMT
Finnish skier fails drugs test
Kaisa Varis
Kaisa Varis could get a two-year ban from the sport
Cross-country skiing has been rocked by another doping scandal after World Championship silver medallist Kaisa Varis failed a drugs test.

The Finnish Ski Association (FSA) confirmed on Friday that Varis had tested positive at the Nordic World Championships in Italy last month.

FSA chairman Seppo Rehunen said Varis' B sample contained traces of the banned substance erythropoietin (EPO).

Varis, who won a silver medal with the Finnish women's relay team, has been temporarily stopped from competing and her case will be heard by the International Ski Federation (FIS) on 10 May.

If found guilty by the FIS she faces a ban of two years.

This has caused a lot of damage, not only to [cross-country skiing], but for sports in Finland in general
Jari Pirainen
Finnish Skiing Federation

The sport has been plagued by doping scandals over the last few years.

Two years ago, six top Finnish skiers tested positive for HES, a banned plasma expander.

The male skiers were Jari Isometsa, Mika Myllyla, Janne Immonen and veteran Harri Kirvesniemi, a six-time Olympic competitor with 11 medals who has since retired.

The women were Milla Jauho and Virpi Kuitunen.

And at the 2002 Winter Olympics gold medallists Johann Muehlegg of Spain and Russia's Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova had to hand back some medals after failing tests.

In the latest case, Varis was initially suspended just before the start of the World Championships because of a high haemoglobin count.

But after a second test, she was allowed to compete.

Finland finished sixth in the medals table with five podium finishes.

FSA has threatened to split the association into three because of the seriousness of alleged doping in cross-country skiing.

And the Finnish Government said last week it would withhold a second instalment of 737,000 euros (500,000) in state aid to the association, pending the outcome of a second test.

Sponsors have also threatened to halt funding for Finnish skiers.

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