LAHTI, Finland (AP) _ Three-time Olympic medalist Jari Isometsa is expected to miss next year's Winter Games after flunking a drug test and losing his silver medal in men's pursuit at the World Nordic Championships.

The International Ski Federation is expected to impose a two-year ban on the Finnish skier at its next meeting. That ban would keep him out of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

FIS said tests after Thursday's 15-kilometer race showed Isometsa used hydroxyethyl starch (HES), an intravenous plasma volume expander. HES is mainly used to mask the possible use of other banned substances by lowering hemoglobin levels.

The silver medal will be awarded to third-place finisher Johann Muehlegg, a German who competes for Spain. Russia's Vitali Denisov, who finished fourth, will be awarded the bronze medal.

Isometsa took full responsibility for testing positive, saying that it was ``his own personal thing.'' Finnish Ski Association officials knew nothing about it, and the banned substance was provided by an outsider, Isometsa said.

``I do not consider this to be an ordinary case of doping, because the substance does not enhance performance,'' Isometsa said, but failed to explain why he kept it a secret from team officials.

Isometsa said that since the rules changed this year on maximum hemoglobin levels, he has had problems keeping his down. He asked the Finnish team physician how he could lower his hemoglobin level and was told that he should give blood.

``But I knew that if I had done that, I would not have been successful at these championships,'' he said.

Isometsa, 32, missed the bronze medal by less than a second in Thursday's race, won by Sweden's Per Elofsson, who also won the pursuit Saturday. In Saturday's pursuit, Isometsa finished second, 9.4 seconds behind Elofsson.

Isometsa, one of the most popular Finnish skiers, previously won his only individual medal _ a bronze _ in major competition in the pursuit at the 1995 World Championships at Thunder Bay, Canada.

In world championship relays, Isometsa won three medals for Finland _ silver in 1995 and '97 at Trondheim, Norway, and a bronze at Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 1991.

In the Olympics, he won relay bronze medals in 1992 at Albertville, France, 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway, and 1998 at Nagano, Japan.

Six-time Olympic champion Lyubov Egorova was the last skier to flunk a drug test at the World Championships, testing positive for Bromatan in 1997 at Trondheim. She was banned for two years.

Egorova admitted taking the drug, which can enhance performance and mask other drugs, but said she did it accidentally, by taking a medication.