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Mika Myllylä

Most everyone has probably heard by now that former Finnish skier and convicted doper Mika Myllylä was found dead in his home earlier this week. There had been a very large court case taking place in Finland involving numerous people’s involvement in past Finnish doping scandals and Myllylä had testified, admitting to drug use during the 1990’s. It’s a sad ending for a guy who hasn’t exactly handled himself well in retirement. No matter what you may think of his crimes, drug problems and an early death at the age of 41 aren’t things I’d wish on anyone.

It’s particularly sad for me, since I confess that I (naively) rooted for many Finnish skiers as a teenager in the 1990’s. It seemed like everyone around me idolized the Norwegians and I like being a bit contrarian, so the Finns sort of fit the bill. Eventually it became obvious that something was up (even for people following the sport from several thousand miles away with what we would now consider a comically crippled version of the Internet), probably around the 1999 Ramsau World Championships, and I moved on in my fandom.

Here’s Myllylä’s major international results:

These are the results that remain in the “official” records, so any race that he participated in, but had the result expunged won’t appear. If we’re going to do armchair speculation, you might guess that he may have started using during the 1993-1994 season, where he saw a dramatic performance jump. Interestingly, he struggled quite a bit in 1996, but it appeared to be a brief hiccup.

Perhaps more interesting is how he fared against some of his contemporaries:

Each panel plots the difference in % back between Myllylä and an opponent. Positive values indicate that Myllylä won that race and vice versa. He saw dramatic improvement against an aging Silvio Fauner and more modest gains versus Dæhlie and his teammate Isometsä. One thing that stands out is the change from 1996 to 1997 versus Smirnov. Obviously, there are two halves to a head-to-head comparison, so that could easily be Smirnov’s performance taking a dive, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.

The late 90’s and early 2000’s were a bit of a transitionary time in skiing, and these folks are definitely the “old guard” of that era. Here’s a comparison against a handful of the younger contemporaries:

Ok, so Skjeldal isn’t really a young guy by the late 90’s, but I’m trying to keep these graphs 4 at a time. And yes, there are loads of other people we could look at: Alsgaard, Mühlegg, etc.


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