Nor­we­gian Stars John­srud Sundby and Jo­haug Test Pos­i­tive

Team's Cred­i­bil­ity Dam­aged

SkiTrax - - Out In Front - by John Symon

In the wake of ma­jor dop­ing con­tro­ver­sies al­ready in the news, Nor­way, the world's top Na­tional cross-coun­try team, be­came em­broiled when two of its top stars tested pos­i­tive for dop­ing. In July, World Cup over­all win­ner Martin John­srud Sundby was in the news for twice test­ing over­the-limit for Salbu­ta­mol, a TUE (Ther­a­peu­tic Use Ex­emp­tion)-ap­proved med­i­ca­tion he uses to treat asthma. Then, in Oc­to­ber, it was an­nounced that Therese Jo­haug had tested pos­i­tive for Closte­bol on Sept. 16.

This one-two punch badly dam­aged Nor­way's rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing “squeaky-clean.” Worse, the re­ac­tion of the Nor­we­gian Ski Fed­er­a­tion to each in­ci­dent casts fur­ther doubts over the Na­tional team, as it ac­cepted blame for both in­ci­dents, lead­ing some to liken the cir­cum­stances to the na­tion-spon­sored dop­ing dilemma faced by Rus­sia.

John­srud Sundby had a TUE for Salbu­ta­mol, but ex­ceeded the max­i­mum al­lowed dose on two oc­ca­sions in De­cem­ber 2014 and Jan­uary 2015. He re­ceived a two-month sus­pen­sion (served out­side of the ski sea­son) and was stripped of his 2014/15 Tour de Ski title, as well as his over­all World Cup title. In a state­ment, the Nor­we­gian Ski Fed­er­a­tion said that it as­sumed full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mat­ter, even com­pen­sat­ing the 26-year-old star for lost prize monies af­ter los­ing his ti­tles to­tal­ing $135,000 [US].

Sub­se­quent me­dia re­ports re­vealed that an ex­traor­di­nar­ily high 69% of Nor­way's Olympic-medal win­ners in Nordic ski­ing had TUES for asthma in­halers. This com­pares to ap­prox­i­mately 10% of the gen­eral pub­lic us­ing in­halers, al­though the in­ci­dence does seem higher amongst cross-coun­try skiers – ap­prox­i­mately 50% of the Bri­tish team uses in­halers, ac­cord­ing to lead­ing ex­pert John Dickinson.

John­srud Sundby's dop­ing con­vic­tion led to his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from events in De­cem­ber 2014 and Jan­uary 2014, which, in turn, led to many re­cal­cu­la­tions of race re­sults and World Cup stand­ings. Thus, the fi­nal 2014/15 FIS (In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion) Cross-coun­try World Cup stand­ings are as fol­lows: 1. Dario Cologna (SUI) 1,103 points; Pet­ter Northug (NOR) 1,047 points; Calle Half­vars­son (SWE) 897 points. No longer the cham­pion, John­srud Sundby slides down to sixth place in the over­all World Cup stand­ings with 748 points and for­feits CHF 22,275 in the over­all World Cup prize-money earn­ings.

In to­tal, John­srud Sundby for­feits 616 World Cup points for the 2014/15 sea­son and CHF 131,275 ($135,000 [US]) in prize money.

Jo­haug was in tears at a press con­fer­ence, an­nounc­ing her pos­i­tive test for an­abolic steroid Closte­bol dur­ing an out-of-com­pe­ti­tion con­trol, ex­plain­ing that it was a top­i­cal cream her team doctor had bought to treat her sun­burned lips. The team doctor, Fredrik S. Bendik­sen, took full blame and then po­litely re­signed. Ac­cord­ing to WADA rules, ath­letes are per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing that they do not take banned prod­ucts. The cream ap­par­ently had a clear dop­ing warn­ing on its la­bel.

Jo­haug, 28, also re­ceived a very light two-month sus­pen­sion by Anti-dop­ing Nor­way that ends on Dec. 18, yet her dop­ing vi­o­la­tion can lead to a fouryear ban from the sport. As such, she will miss the be­gin­ning of the 2016-17 ski sea­son, but her case is still be­ing reviewed and futher reper­cus­sions may be com­ing.

All of this has led to al­le­ga­tions of “ar­ro­gance” on the part of the Nor­we­gian Ski Fed­er­a­tion. There were even some un­of­fi­cial calls for a two-year boy­cott of the Nor­we­gian team for “state-spon­sored dop­ing,” sim­i­lar to of­fi­cial charges made against the Rus­sian team.

Con­tro­versy hit Nor­way when top stars Martin John­srud Sundby and Therese Jo­haug both tested pos­i­tive.

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