A member of the team of researchers investigating the charges of doping against Andrus Veerpalu says the substance that proved the skier's undoing was produced naturally by the skier's own body.
Anton Terasmaa said the disgraced skier has a rare genetic mutation that causes his growth hormone levels to spike after exertion. A team of 12 Tartu scientists sequenced Veerpalu's DNA in April and May.
The findings were sent to the international ski federation, FIS, which had ordered them to remain sealed until recently, said Terasmaa in an article in Eesti Päevaleht. "But now I can inform the Estonian public of the researchers' results: Andrus Veerpalu exhibits uniquely strong post-exertion production of growth hormone," he wrote.
A doping test had found Veerpalu to have a higher-than-permitted level of growth hormone just before the skier had suspiciously brought his career to an abrupt end on the eve of the Holmenkollen world championship in February.
Terasmaa said tests conducted from 2007 to 2010 compared the athlete's levels of the growth hormone before and after a workout. "It became evident that while other skiers had a tenfold rise in the level of growth hormone, in Veerpalu it was a hundredfold."
Terasmaa said that while the level of hormone could be expected to diminish over time even in Veerpalu, "Veerpalu was in a high-altitude chamber after the workout where the level of the hormone does not fall but could be expected to rise even more."