Mika Myllylä, who holds a record for winning 23 Finnish cross-country titles during his career, is considered to be one of the most successful Finnish skiers, despite being caught with positive doping tests. In his prime, in the 1990s, Myllylä won six Olympic medals and nine World Championships medals, but later admitted that he doped his entire career. Myllylä made his international début at the 1992 Olympics, but did not medal, his best being 14th in the 10 km. Myllylä also did not medal at the 1993 World Championships, but a year later surprised everyone by winning silver at 50 km and bronzes in the 30 km and relay at the 1994 Winter Olympic. Before the Olympics, the best places Myllylä had achieved at the World Cup races, were third places in both Kavgolovo and Olso at the start of 1994, just before the Olympics. After the Olympics, Myllylä established himself as one of the top male distance skiers. The 1995 World Championships were not the best for Myllylä as he won only bronze over 10 km, but in the following top tournaments, Myllylä was the top contender for gold medals in the distances. Myllyla was the World 50 km champion at the 1997 World Championships and Olympic 30 km champion in 1998. He also won two silvers (pursuit and relay) and bronze (10 km) in 1997 and two bronzes (10 km and relay) in 1998. The best international tournament for Myllylä was the 1999 World Championships in Ramsau, where he ruled the ski courses by winning almost everything there was to win. Myllylä won golds at 10 km, 30 km and 50 km, while taking silvers in the pursuit and relay.
At the start of the 2000s, Myllylä was on his way to become one of the greatest stars in cross country skiing history, and went to the 2001 World Championships, held in his hometown of Lahti, as the favorite at every distance, but was caught using hydroxyethyl starch (HES), a blood plasma expander usually used to cover up the use of erythropoietin (EPO), with five other Finnish male top skiers during the Championships. Myllylä received a two-year suspension from the FIS and tried a comeback after his sentence, but not very successfully and finished his sporting career in 2005. During his sporting career, Myllylä’s fondness for alcohol was well known and, after his retirement, his drinking problems worsened. In January 2008, he was caught drunk driving and was sentenced to 40 days in prison. In 2009 Myllylä was caught drunk driving once more, and three more times in 2010 and each time was sentenced to 30-40 days in prison. In addition to his drunk driving offenses, Myllylä was also in court because of his doping use and in spring of 2011 gave a sworn statement where he admitted using EPO during his entire career. In the morning of 5 July 2011, Myllylä’s lifeless body was found at his home. Although no official cause of death was released, the media speculated that he committed suicide. At the time of his death, the court case about his doping use was still on-going.
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