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Charges filed in massive Swedish doping scandal

Seventy suspects were indicted at Sundsvall district court on Tuesday for their involvement in the largest doping ring ever uncovered in Sweden.

The charges involve people who smuggled, sold and handled the doping materials.

Another 30 people are expected to be charged for their work in transporting and selling the illicit materials.

At a later stage, more than 1,000 people who bought doping materials will also be charged.

“It will be a huge strain on us. It feels incredibly challenging to have to manage such a large and extensive trial,” Judge Sten Burman from the Sundsvall district court told the TT news agency.

Six people are suspected of being the ringleaders in the scandal, five of whom are already in custody.

The sixth suspect, a 45-year-old Swede suspected of leading the operations, is believed to living in Serbia off the proceeds generated from the sale of doping materials. An international arrest warrant has been issued for the man, but remains at large.

“The man managed the operations from Spain and Portugal where doping materials which had been imported from China were processed and for further transport to various addresses in Sweden,” chief prosecutor Marina Amonsson told TT.

The trial will take place in several district courts, but mainly at Sundsvall district court.

“It will be totally impossible to accommodate everyone involved – nearly 200 people – in the same room, so most of the defendants and their attorneys will be present by video link connected at the Malmö, Örebro and Värmland district courts,” said Burman.

“All the accused should be able to take advantage of what is said in the parts of the trial concerning the general part of the indictment,” he added.

The presentation of the indictment was delayed past the scheduled 11am release on Tuesday due to the scale of the unusually extensive investigation.

“It is at the wholesale level. At a later stage, 1,000 to 1,200 buyers will face charges,” Sune Nordström of the Swedish Customs Service (Tullverket) told TT on Monday.

The district court has not had enough time to go through the large volume of material and estimated that it could disclose its findings in several hours.

On May 3rd, 2009, customs seized a large parcel of anabolic steroids on the way to an address in northern Västernorrland.

“The package was sent from Malaga. We soon learned that it involved organised activity. Customs found that we would not be capable of investigating on our own without working with police,” Nordström said.

Police continued an undercover investigation and on December 9th, launched a campaign with officials from customs, the enforcement service and tax administration.

The targets were about 40 people at nine different locations.

“There were 300 people who participated in the campaign. It grew into a huge case – the largest of its kind in Europe,” said Nordström.

“About 100 people are covered by the indictments,” said prosecutor Marina Amonsson.

The trial begins on November 1st at Sundsvall district court and will be the most comprehensive case ever held in Sweden.

During the first part of the trial, comprising nine trial days from November 1st to 18th, all the defendants and their attorneys will be present. Parts of the trial will take place at four other district courts.

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RUSSIA

Skier wears Russian costume in doping statement

German cross-country skier Tim Tscharnke arrived at Sweden’s Vasaloppet ski race dressed in the outfit for Russia’s national team, bringing raised eyebrows from commentators.

Skier wears Russian costume in doping statement
Tim Tscharnke has been accused of making a political statement. Photo: SVT screen grab
“Should we take this as some sort of statement?” SVT sports journalist Jacob Hård said after the costume was spotted, according to the Expressen newspaper. 
 
“Without doubt. I absolutely believe that this is some sort of way of supporting the Russian system,” replied expert commentator Anders Blomquist, a cross-country veteran. “He has spent a long time in Russia, speaks Russian and likes the Russian system.”
 
The International Olympic Committee last year sanctioned 43 Russian Olympians for doping in the 2014 Winter Olympics, stripping away 13 Olympic medals.
 
But the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the start of last month overturned the sanctions on 28 of the athletes.  None of the sanctioned athletes, however, took part in the 2018 Olympic Games last month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
 
Despite his attention-grabbing move, Tscharnke didn't even make the top ten in the race. 
 
Norwegian cross country skier Andreas Nygaard won with a time of 4.24.36, marking the seventh year in a row a Norwegian has come first. 
 
Swedish skier Bob Niemi Impola came in second place and another Norwegian, Stian Hoelgaard, came third. 
 
“It's so unbelievable that I got the chance to win today. It's a big dream to win this. I'm so happy,” Nygaard told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT. “I was hoping for group of us to break out ahead and I had a lot of power at the finish.”
 
Nygaard was beaten to second place in last year’s competition by his countryman John Kristian Dahl. 
 
Sweden’s Lina Korsgren topped her Norwegian rival to win the women’s race. 
 
Korsgren told SVT after her victory: “This is the best day of  my life”. 
 
Tscharnke, who took the silver medal in the 2010 Olympics, announced last summer that he was ending his international skiing career, judghing that a string of injuries made it “impossible” for him to again be a world-class competitor.