Before his doping bust following the 2001 World Championships in Lahti, Finland, Myllala had been one of my heroes. Who wouldn’t have been inspired by his big wins in intimidating conditions? His gold medal in the rain in the 50 k at the 1997 Worlds in Trondheim, Norway. The biggest win of all, the 30 k classic at Nagano in 1998, where Norway blew the kick wax. The three gold medals at Ramsau in 1999.
I cried on that morning in 2001 when I learned about Mika’s bust, along with several other members of the Finnish national cross-country ski team. Ten years ago, I was sad, hurt, and disillusioned. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! Yeah… I was naive.
Today, I’m sad again, because of his untimely death.
Unable to come back after serving his suspension, Myllala retired in 2005. Was it the lack of dope, or possibly remorse? We’ll never know. It seems like his life just didn’t go right after that. Failing at a job in real estate development, a burgeoning alcohol problem… a long downhill slide.
I do not condone doping in any way, shape or form. But time passes, and softens the hard edges of anger. Especially for those who take responsibility for their actions, as Myllala did, I believe in second chances.
It’s just eating me up right now that Myllala couldn’t give himself a second chance. RIP.