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MARTTI VAINIO : He Went From Being the Apple of Finland's Eye to Being the Rotten Runner in the Country's Barrel

July 28, 1985|JULIE CART | Times Staff Writer

Vainio's admission that he took an illegal substance put to rest some of the more bizarre explanations for his positive test result. In part because he is a Finn, blood doping was suggested. (Four-time gold medalist Lasse Viren of Finland has long been rumored to be an adherent of this procedure. Another Finn, Kaarlo Maaninka, admitted to blood doping in Moscow, where he won silver and bronze medals. Blood doping has recently been banned by the IOC.)

The scenario some advanced for Vainio was that he used steroids to increase blood volume, then withdrew blood with the steroids in his bloodstream. Then, the plasma is separated from the red blood cells and the red blood cells reinjected into the athlete.

In this theoretical procedure, the steroids are filtered out with the plasma. Thus, it is believed the athlete receives both the muscle-building qualities of the steroids and the oxygen-carrying boost from the blood doping.

In Vainio's case, the theory went, imprecise laboratory work failed to clear all the steroids from his blood and the drugs were detected.

Speculation such as this is made all the more wild because of Vainio's sprouts-and-chelated liver pills reputation. A vegetarian who swallowed and injected as many as 17 vitamin and mineral supplements each day (27 different supplements the year before the Olympics), Vainio has spoken out against drugs and always seemed above reproach.

"It shook the Finnish sport very much," said Dr. Arne Ljungqvist of Sweden, a member of the IOC Medical Commission. "Every leader I know was surprised that Vainio would take the drug. It shows the problem. Any athlete, even like him, can take the drug if they feel."

Certainly in Finland, a land of wall-to-wall track and field fans, Vainio was revered.

"In the beginning, all of Finland was behind him," said another Finnish journalist. "There was still much pressure on him. He talked to no one. Through the winter, he has trained in cross-country skiing. I think he may have hurt his back, but it is thought it was due to stress."

The shock of Vainio's drug bust is still felt in Finland and the already strict Finnish Athletic Assn. has gotten even more tough with drugs.

"Even a year later, it's hard to tell all the effects it has had," Hannus said. "It had had repercussions all over the country. One effect has been there have been much fewer spectators for athletics than before, at least for the time being.

"The testing in Finland has become very strict. They are testing here, there and everywhere.

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