Norwegian Stars Johnsrud Sundby and Johaug Test Positive
Team's Credibility Damaged
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.