Disgraced cross-country skiing star Petter Northug has told reporters that he and a friend were so drunk after a night of partying that they thoughtlessly went driving, and then he panicked and fled after crashing his car through a safety barrier. On Monday night, a tearful Northug gave his own version of events surrounding the crash, and admitted he’d initially lied to police about his involvement.
Speculation has swirled in the media since reports emerged on Sunday that Northug’s Audi A7 had been involved in a serious single-car crash in Trondheim. On Sunday night one of Norway’s highest-profile sportsmen admitted he was behind the wheel. In his first interview since the crash, 24 hours after his admission, the 28-year-old told Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen what happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Northug had been out with friends at Studio 26 in Trondheim, he said, before heading back to his place for a late-night party known as a nachspiel in Norway. “We left (Studio 26) together with some people I knew,” Northug said. “We sat there until five o’clock. Then people began to go home or go to sleep.” When only he and a friend were still awake, they decided to go for a drive. “There was no plan behind the trip,” he said, and added they were drinking right up until they left.
“It was not a long trip,” Northug recalled. “What I remember is there was a bang and we stopped in the railing. Then there was panic on both our sides, when we realized the seriousness of it.”
‘Therefore I ran home’
Northug was questioned about why he fled from the car, leaving his injured friend behind. “The first talk we had was whether we were okay,” he said. “Both of us confirmed we were. The shock and the panic made me react the way I did. It was the easiest way and I reacted in panic. Therefore I ran home.”
He said no one was awake back at his place, and he paced around until the police came. Northug was still drunk when they arrived at the Trondheim police station, and the officers decided he was in no shape for questioning. “I had to wait some time before I could speak,” Northug told Adresseavisen.
Denied he had driven
Northug was put under arrest and left to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. When police began questioning him, he denied he’d been behind the wheel. “At first, when I woke up, I was a little unclear and did not give the correct information,” he admitted. “I said that I was in the car, but that’s because of the condition I was in. I didn’t remember what had happened.”
“I was in a fog, in shock,” Northug said. “I had not spoken with my family, and didn’t know what was going on outside. Eventually I became clear, came to my senses and then just laid all of the facts on the table.”
“I feel like total hell,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation, a hell of a situation to be in. I have disappointed myself, my family, close friends, supporters and everyone around me.”
Northug is known for his brash and arrogant personality, but newspaper VG reported he was disheveled, subdued and close to tears several times during their interview later on Monday night. “I was so drunk that I was not in a position to make the right choices,” he said. “I did not have the sense to let the car keys lie.”
“It is clear this will hang over me, and I just have to take that,” Northug went on. “I will take the punishment. I’m the one who has done this and been stupid. When you do something like this you don’t just put yourself in danger, but also passengers and others. It’s stupid and idiotic, when you clearly think a lot about afterwards.”
Career is not over
While he admitted he needs to make some lifestyle adjustments, Northug claimed he’s highly motivated to continue his skiing career and will fight his way back to the top. “I want to ski,’ he said. “That’s what drives me. That’s what I thrive on. This has been a real eye-opener. I know what priorities you have to have in life to reach the top and stay there.”
“I feel I have been very dedicated since I first got started,” he mused, about his attitude in recent years. “Some training has started a little later than others. But then I have done it properly. That’s how I am. I have taken liberties with longer breaks, but everyone knows that. It is clear this has a connection with what has happened previously.”
Northug said he was prepared to serve jail time, then would clear his mind, get back to training, and get back on track. He said he hoped his sponsors would stick with him, but would understand if they wanted to pull out. Some already have, others have said they’ll continue their support and his main sponsor, Coop Norge, is still evaluating a decision.