Sas­seville Re­port

Mak­ing Head­lines

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Jack Sas­seville

Dop­ing in Nor­way – Over the fall, this has been the No. 1 topic in the sport of cross-coun­try ski­ing, and in­volves two sep­a­rate dop­ing cases and two sus­pen­sions of the best male and fe­male skiers in the world.

Does this mean there is some­thing rot­ten in cross-coun­try ski­ing in Nor­way? Maybe. Ac­cord­ing to Theresa Jo­haug, she is in­no­cent of dop­ing, but guilty of ig­nor­ing the pack­age la­belling and of trust­ing her team doctor. It is hard to be­lieve, how­ever, that nei­ther of them saw the huge NO DOP­ING la­bel on the box and tube of lip cream. What­ever she is guilty of, it is the ath­lete's re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure that a dop­ing prod­uct is not used. It has been rec­om­mended that she re­ceive a 14-month sus­pen­sion, which is the short­est ever given for the use of this prod­uct. To her sup­port­ers, her tears are real, and they be­lieve she shouldn't be pun­ished so heav­ily. To her de­trac­tors, they are “croc­o­dile tears,” and that they are mask­ing some­thing. I am on the fence here – she has been too good for too long for me to be­lieve that she is us­ing steroids for per­for­mance, how­ever, this is a banned sub­stance and she should have been more at­ten­tive. What do you think?

The other ma­jor dop­ing story in Nor­way in­volves asthma med­i­ca­tion. Ac­tu­ally, it is three sto­ries. One story is about Martin John­srud Sundby us­ing too much be­fore races. The sec­ond re­volves around the num­ber of asth­mat­ics on the Nor­we­gian team. The third con­cerns Nor­we­gian coaches' and doc­tors' rec­om­men­da­tion that skiers who do not have asthma use the med­i­ca­tion “for pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures.”

As a life­long asth­matic, I have no prob­lem with skiers di­ag­nosed with asthma by a rep­utable independent doctor us­ing asthma med­i­ca­tion. It cer­tainly helps me to breathe “nor­mally” at high in­ten­si­ties. I do have a prob­lem with us­ing higher-than-cor­rect dosages, as did John­srud Sundby. I also have a prob­lem with us­ing the neb­u­liz­ers in the wax­ing trailer be­tween qual­i­fy­ing and heats on sprint days. And I most def­i­nitely have a prob­lem with us­ing the med­i­ca­tion if you are not asth­matic. To me, us­ing too much is tak­ing ad­van­tage of an ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion to get an un­nat­u­ral per­for­mance en­hance­ment, and us­ing it if you don't need it is down­right cheat­ing. Many doc­tors and re­searchers in Scan­di­navia are quoted as say­ing that us­ing these med­i­ca­tions will not help some­one who does not have asthma. If this is the case, then why are the coaches and doc­tors on the Nor­we­gian team telling their ath­letes to use it?

New CEO for Cross Coun­try Canada – Af­ter less than a year in the po­si­tion, Pierre La­fontaine has left CCC for Cy­cling Canada. This was bound to hap­pen, given his liv­ing sit­u­a­tion. His fam­ily re­mained in the Ot­tawa, Ont. area while he was resided alone in a rental suite in Can­more, Alta. This may work for a young ath­lete, but not for him. While in Can­more, he missed his fam­ily, and while at home in Chelsea, Que., he was not able to per­form his job nearly as well.

It didn't take long for CCC to an­nounce his re­place­ment. Shane Pearsall is a for­mer Olympic chef de mis­sion and ath­lete, a for­mer CEO at Bob­sleigh and Luge and, even more im­por­tantly, an ex­ec­u­tive in the “oil patch” in the past decade. With CCC'S big­gest chal­lenge be­ing a lack of funds, he ap­pears to be the right per­son for the job.

Early-sea­son Re­sults – As I write this col­umn, it seems to be busi­ness as usual on both the Cana­dian and Amer­i­can teams as the sea­son gets un­der­way. Alex Har­vey is con­sis­tently near the top of the re­sults for Canada and Jessie Dig­gins con­tin­ues to shine for the U.S. Her win in Lille­ham­mer demon­strated that she con­tin­ues to im­prove, and she is now one of the top-three non-nor­we­gian skiers in the world. With Char­lotte Kalla cur­rently di­ag­nosed with atrial fib­ril­la­tion, Dig­gins may move up even more.

The rest of the Cana­dian team, with the ex­cep­tion of a 13th place by Len Val­jas, has not done all that well. This is the start of the qual­i­fy­ing pe­riod for Canada for the 2018 Olympics, and, so far, Har­vey has made the re­quired two re­sults to be nom­i­nated and Val­jas has done it once. Devon Ker­shaw has been close, but the rest of the men and women skiers are a long way off in­di­vid­u­ally. It looks as if they may have to make the stan­dard in the re­lays or Team sprints in or­der to qual­ify. There are still many races left this year and into the start of next year, so no need to panic just yet. It would be bet­ter though to qual­ify this sea­son and plan to be at one's best in Fe­bru­ary 2018 and not have to be con­cerned with peak­ing early in the Olympic sea­son.

The Amer­i­can women's team con­tin­ues to be strong, with great depth. It seems that ev­ery race there are at least three women in the top 30 col­lect­ing points. The men con­tinue to be in the mid­dle of the pack and, to me, do not seem to be mov­ing for­ward.

Nor­way con­tin­ues to dominate the men's and women's re­sult lists, with in­cred­i­ble depth in both teams. Cross-coun­try ski­ing in Nor­way is like hockey in Canada. Kids grow up want­ing to be skiers. They see skiers on TV ev­ery day, the top skiers are su­per­stars in the coun­try and there are great ski fa­cil­i­ties in ev­ery small town and city. Nowhere else in the world is the sport of cross-coun­try ski­ing as im­por­tant as it is in Nor­way. It re­ally is a na­tion “Born on Skis.”

Theresa Jo­haug claims it was an in­no­cent mis­take de­spite the la­belling on the pack­age.

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