Winter Olympic Special
SLC Special Index
XC Files General Reports
February 25 - Doping Taint Spreads!
With such eventful and exciting competition at these games it seems a shame to end with big doping scandals just like in Lahti 2001. Hopefully most people will agree it it better to have the scandal and the cheaters caught rather than have them get away with it.
Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova from Russia joined Johann Muhlegg in testing positive to Darbepoetin. All three were caught from an out of competition test taken on Thursday. Although results of B-tests are still to come, the IOC has moved quickly and stripped Muhlegg and Lazutina of the gold medals from the 50km and 30km respectively. However all reports also say that the three skiers will likely get to retain their medals from earlier in the games, despite pretty much certainty that they would have used the drug in preparation for the olympics and benefitted from its effects in all the events.
Darbepoetin, also known as NESP, is supposed to be used for patients suffering from anaemia and is said to be up to 20 times more effective than EPO. A relatively new product (released onto the market last October), it was apparently widely thought that the NESP was unable to be detected, but for once it seems the anti-doping tests are keeping pace with the dopers.
What should still be a concern is that none of the guilty 3 (or "So-Ho Trio" as coined on XC Skiworld) were picked up in numerous post race tests conducted throughout the games. Between them Muhlegg ,Lazutina and Danilova had already won 6 medals, and so must have been tested at least this many times, not to mention the pre-race haemoglobin tests. This demonstrates that it is still possible to cheat and get away with it.
With Muhlegg still (incredibly) protesting innocence and the Russian team seeking to take the matter to court, this scandal is far from over. There are also stories coming in Swedish press regarding targetting of speficic athletes for testing based on the results of blood testing at World Cups earlier in the season. However, this Salt Lake City Couch Special is over. Further reports on the post-olympic happenings will resume in the Summer News section. Though english news reports on cross country skiing seem to have been more available this time around than for previous Olympic Games, hopefully these XC Files have provided Australian readers with a view of the sport not available back home.
February 24 - Muhlegg Positive for Blood-Doping!
Sunday 10am in Europe after Muhlegg wins the 50km in Salt Lake City. Swedish text TV has just posted the following news (translated from Swedish):
Ski-King Johann Muhlegg has tested positive for "Darbepoetin", a derivative of blood doping substance EPO. This was notified today by the Spanish sports departement, as reported by TT (news service). EPO is used to increase the number of red blood cells in the blood, which gives great endurance.
It is Muhlegg's A-test which has shown to be postive. If the B-test confirms the result then Muhlegg losed his gold medal from the 50km. Muhlegg will be heard tonight by the IOC's medical committee.
Could there be any bigger news than this? Further comments from Swedish coach Magnar Dalen:
"I thought during the 30km, this is not possible, no-one can ski as fast as this, said Dalen to Dagens Nyheter (Swedish newspaper). Dalen thought that the news was a big blow for cross country skiing, but at the same time was relieved [?] that his suspicions proved to be correct.
"The impossible [or inhuman?] showed itself to be in fact impossible,' said the national team coach Magnar Dalen.
Presuming the B-test is also positive (and if it isn't that is another kettle of fish), the next big question is how Muhlegg managed to be clean on all his previous tests. We wait to see how this latest drama in the world of cross country skiing unfolds...
XCskiworld reported yesterday that Muhlegg was very close to being refused a start after the pre-race haemoglobin test. Muhlegg apparently recorded a value too high, but then retested within 5 minutes as under FIS/IOC rules and produced a lower value.
February 21 - Russia, Ukraine High Haemoglobin
Incredible news today before the start of the women's relay, skiers from Russia and Ukraine were over the limit in the pre-race haemoglobin tests, and these two countries were not allowed to start. Lazutina from Russia and Terelia from Ukraine were the guilty parties, though guilty is perhaps technically not the correct terminology as no doping penalty is applied and the skiers are only barred from starting for health reasons. On one hand there could be some dispute (from the Russians and Ukrainians of course) regarding the application of this limit at such a high altititude, but on the other hand the blood tests can also with great certainty tell if there had been any artificial involvement. The question is: Will we get to know if these two skiers just had high haemoglobin, or if the blood profile was incriminating as well?
Swedish commentators seemed in no doubt that the high Hb values were caused by illegal methods, and were also quite critical on the Russian team who have Baranova still living and training with them at the olympics, despite Baranova being recently banned for two years for EPO doping.
A special report also posted today from Australian junior skier Nick Grimmer, who made the trip from Royal Gorge to Soldier Hollow to see the men's relay and the sprint competions. Hopefully Nick is picking up a few tips from watching the world's best. Here are Nick's impressions of the men's relay event...
February 15 - A Couple of Shorts
It was announced today that Elofsson from Sweden has come down sick, and will miss the relay in two days time. This severely hampers Sweden's chances for a medal in that event. Norway will go in as favourites, as they just about have for the last ten years at all major championships, but Austria, Italy, and Russia all have strong teams and anything can happen in a relay.
On Norwegian TV Gudmund Skjeldal, brother of Norwegian team member Kristen, all but accused the Estonian team of doping at these Olympic Games. He didn't point the finger at Muhlegg, who has been in incredible form (and drawn the direct question from Swedish reporters), but the former national team member (and winner of 1992 Kangaroo Hoppet) could not believe that the Estonians could be so far ahead of Jevne and Estil without "extra" help.
February 7 - No Australian Cross Country Skiers...
Today's quiz: When was the last Winter Olympics without an Australian cross country skier? Back past the memory of current Australian team members at least. Certainly this is a set-back for the sport in Australia. The absence of Australian cross country skiers in Salt Lake City seems to have come about from a combination of raising the bar by the AOC; the continual retirement of our best skiers in their mid to late twenties; and some bad luck for our World Cup skiers this season. However. We have to accept the standards that we have to aim for, take heart from the promising results this season, and look to the future.
Recent reports on doping are disturbing, but considering the scandals of Lahti and the number of irregular blood tests produced from the voluntary tests there, perhaps the only surprising thing is that people are finally being caught. One thing is for sure: there will continue to be rumours and uncertainty until the authorities decide that seriously cleaning up the sport is better in the long term than just doing the minumum in an attempt to avoid the scandals.
So with that, hopefully folks back in Australia will have a chance to see some of the Olympic cross country events on TV. If not, there should be plenty of english language reports (start from the SLC and XC Ski World links above), and we will try to post regular armchair reports of the races on this site.
9 February - Women's 15km Freestyle, Men's 30km Freestyle
12 February - Women's 10km Classical, Men's 15km Classical
14 February - Men's One-day Pursuit: 10km Classical, 10km Freestyle
15 February - Women's One-day Pursuit: 5km Classical, 5km Freestyle
17 February - Men's 4x10km Relay
19 February - Women's 1.5km Sprint, Men's 1.5km Sprint
21 February - Women's 4x5km Relay
23 February - Men's 50km Classical
24 February - Women's 30km Classical
Images of the 2002 Winter Olympics
(What did you expect in reports coming from Europe?)
Esther Bottomley in Italy preparing for 2002 games
Ben Derrick Enjoys Olympics from Munich
XC is the official website of the Skiing Australia Cross Country Committee. It is produced with the assistance of the Australian Sports Commission, and the Kangaroo Hoppet. The editor can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.