Johaug ‘crushed,’ doctor resigns

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UPDATED: Norway’s cross-country skiing star Therese Johaug, crying throughout a mid-day press conference on Thursday, repeated claims that she was “crushed” after testing positive for a banned steroid that was contained in a medical cream she used to treat sunburned lips last summer. She also said she was “furious” and “so innocent” in the doping violation that has thrown Norwegian sports into a new crisis.

It was painful to watch Thursday's press conference where Norwegian skiing star Therese Johaug sobbed throughout her version of how she has tested positive for a banned substance. She claimed she had "zero guilt" but had landed in "an athlete's worst nightmare" after relying on her team doctor's advice. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

It was painful to watch Thursday’s press conference where Norwegian skiing star Therese Johaug sobbed throughout her version of how and why she has tested positive for a banned substance. She claimed she had “zero guilt” and had landed in “an athlete’s worst nightmare” after relying on her team doctor’s advice. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“This situation is completely indescribable,” Johaug said between sobs during what must rank as one of the most painful press conferences in local memory. Here was Norway’s crown princess of skiing, with multiple Olympic gold medals, World Cup and World Championship victories, inconsolable in front of an assembled Norwegian press corps and on live TV aired nationwide by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and TV2.

Norway’s national skiing federation (Norges Skiforbund) had issued a press release earlier in the day stating that Johaug had tested positive for a mild but banned anabolic steroid called clostebol after using a cream called Trofodermin that had been given to her by the national skiing team’s doctor to treat sunburned lips. The federation said Johaug suffered the sunburn during high-elevation training with Norway’s national ski team in Italy at the end of August, and it led to painful, open sores on her lips that needed treatment.

Now Johaug is suffering the most pain of all, after noting how she has landed in “an athlete’s worst nightmare.” Her sobbing and disheveled appearance confirmed her statement issued in the press release Thursday morning:  “I’m completely crushed and in despair after landing in this extremely difficult and, for me, unreal situation. I feel this is unfair and not my fault, even though I’m of course aware of the responsibility I, as an athlete, have for the medicine I use.”

Norwegian skier Therese Johaug collapsed in screams at the finish line after winning the women's 10-kilometer race where they can choose their techniques. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013/Newspower Canon

Norwegian skier Therese Johaug is known for collapsing into screams of joy and victory after international competition, like here at the world championships in Italy in 2013. Now she’s collapsing into despair after using a banned substance to treat lip sores from a sunburn. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013/Newspower Canon

She also said, however, that she was “furious” because “I asked (the doctor) if the cream was on the doping list, and he said ‘no.’ I relied 100 percent on that.” She added that the doctor, Fredrik S Bendiksen, “is an expert on sports medicine” and she’d had “full confidence’ in him. She said she feels “so innocent in this case.”

Bendiksen took full responsibility for Johaug’s use of the lip cream and announced his immediate resignation as chief physician for Norway’s national cross-country skiing team. He said he was also in despair over the situation, since he had given Johaug two creams that he had purchased at an Italian pharmacy since he lacked such medication in his own medical bag. One of them didn’t work, the other did, and she used them for 11 days in early September.

“Therese is an incredibly disciplined person and athlete who is very precise in everything she does,” Bendiksen said. “The most important thing for me now is to do all I can so that she won’t be punished because she used a cream that I had assured her was legal to use.” The federation noted that the doctor was unaware the Trofodermin cream contained clostebol, which has been described as a low-grade steroid and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s list of prohibited substances.

Johaug used the cream between September 4 and 15. On Friday September 16, Johaug submitted an out-of-competition urine sample for routine testing and reported her use of the Trofodermin cream. The sample revealed clostebol and on October 4, Johaug was informed of the violation by Antidoping Norge. An investigation is now underway and Johaug faces being banned from competition on the eve of the skiing season, not least because any form of steroid is seen as a performance-enhancing substance that’s illegal.

A chastened Dr Fredrik S Bendiksen announced his immediate resignation on Thursday as chief physician of the Norwegian national cross-country ski team, after giving a cream that contained an illegal steroid to skiing star Therese Johaug. Now she faces doping charges and suspension on the eve of the skiing season. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

A chastened Dr Fredrik S Bendiksen announced his immediate resignation on Thursday as chief physician of the Norwegian national cross-country ski team, after giving a cream that contained an illegal steroid to skiing star Therese Johaug. Now she faces doping charges and suspension on the eve of the skiing season. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

It’s the second time in recent months that Norway’s national ski team’s medical apparatus has been blamed for prescribing medicine or their usage that’s landed athletes in trouble. Skiing champion Martin Johnsrud Sundby was punished over how he used an asthma medicine, and questions are still flying over sports officials’ alleged recommendations that skiers who don’t suffer from asthma also could use asthma medicine. The Norwegian doctors claimed it was a preventive measure to ward off bronchial congestion before major races. Critics claim it was aimed at enhancing performance.

Bendiksen, who said he has worked within the field of sports medicine for 36 years, had no explanation as to why he did not “register” that the cream for Johaug’s lip sores contained a substance that’s also banned in Norway and not even used in cosmetics. He admitted under questioning that he had not read the leaflet that came tucked inside the box containing the tube of Trofodermin cream, but did read the box itself. “It is my personal mistake as a doctor and I will take the consequences of that,” he said before announcing his resignation. “I am deeply unhappy … that I have put Therese into the situation she’s in.”

Harsh criticism of the Norwegian skiing federation’s medical apparatus was already pouring in, before the press conference began. The leader of the federation’s cross-country skiing committee, Torbjørn Skogstad, claimed it was most important “to take care of Therese and Fredrik in the best possible way, and to have full openness about what has happened.” He called the new doping violation “a serious situation both for Therese Johaug, Fredrik Bendiksen and Norwegian cross-country skiing.”

Neither Skogstad nor Erik Røste, president of federation, however, offered their own resignations, pending results of the doping investigation. Røste called it “a terribly sad day” and also expressed concern for Johaug and Bendiksen. “We will stand together in this difficult situation,” Røste said despite Bendiksen’s resignation. “The board is worried that Norwegian cross-country skiing has again landed in a demanding situation, and wants to take steps to prevent this from happening again.” He could not specify what those steps might involve.

Several events meant to mark the upcoming opening of the ski season on Thursday were cancelled. Officials instead were preparing for more meetings and more questions as they found themselves fending off another doping scandal that challenges Norway’s credibility as a dominant ski nation.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Daim

    Ops. So innocent.

    And Sundsby whom used asthma medicine to treat his condicion. I mean those doses where so high that you could have treated all the people in a small norwegian village with those quantities – and his penalty: 2 months during the Summer time, for a skier? FIS is a joke.

    But luckily we all know how clean all the norwegian professional athletes are. Only the other (lower) “races” cheat but not the norwegians. Wake up already.

    Anyways, good luck. Lets hope Theresa is innocent..

  • Francis

    Muah.. I Wonder why I’m not surprised at all.

  • gyyf

    “The board is worried that Norwegian cross-country skiing has again
    landed in a demanding situation, and wants to take steps to prevent this
    from happening again.” He could not specify what those steps might
    involve.

    Well, i think it means that they try to prevent testing of Norwegian skiers in future 🙂

    Also Norwegian doctors had to diagnose asthma immediately when baby is born, so no errors can happen when using medicines for asthma…

    Also it would be very beneficial to arrange more Norwegian leaders into WADA and other organizations doing unnecessary doping tests on absolutely clean Norwegian athletes.

    Also better to start to make boxing practices for Northug & other “clean” athletes saying that they will hit those doping using others skiers in face……

  • richard albert

    Welcome to the wide, wonderful and wacky world of sports, where things are spelled $portsmanship, €airness and ¢ooperation. That’s £ife…

  • Kari Paukkeri

    What the heck is going on Norvegians? Doctors take responsibility of off-label use of asthma medication, and now this unbelieveable lip cream case. Drama and theatrical performances aside – can not these people read labels? Doping is doping is doping!

    Was she banned immediately – no? What really amazes me is the manner their national association handles these cases – in comparision to what is done elsewhere. Whith the exception of the ruskies…hmm..

  • Barbara

    This is an athlete who has been taking asthma medication even though she does not have asthma. Does anyone seriously believe her innocence?

  • matias59

    Why have people in Norway been so naive during last few decades?

  • macrov

    This is unfortunate. I’m as opposed to doping as anyone, but too many of the comments fail to distinguish between carelessness, which this seems to be, and a large-scale (even state-sponsored) doping program. In response to Kari Paukkeri below: Doping is not doping is not doping. Johaug mistakenly took a lip ointment, and can identify the exact cause of her positive test, and even discosed her use of it when she was tested. No evidence presented to suggest she or anyone else is part of an organized, large-scale doping program (unlike the Finnish x-c skiers back in 2001), and no hint of a coverup or – as with the Russians – tampering with samples.

    A brief suspension and the resignation of the doctor seems appropriate, if unfortunate.

    • Michael Weigand

      just google the product as it sold in Italy…for e.g. Trofodermin in google pictures! If You can´t see the sign “doping” on the product, please consult an eye doctor…there is no difference to other dopers just the story is amusing…