Family feud rocks Norwegian sport

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An emerging drama involving the coach and father of Norwegian hurdler Christina Vukicevic was getting widespread coverage in Norwegian media this week. A feud within the Vukicevic family has set off doping suspicions, with speculation rising that they may topple the family patriarch’s coaching career and implicate other athletes.

Christina Vukicevic, shown here at the Bislett Games in Oslo in 2011, is facing new hurdles after having to skip last summer’s Olympics and now with her father suspended from coaching. She is under no suspicion of doping herself but her coach is at least temporarily out of action. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Petar Vukicevic was suspended by Norway’s national athletics association (Norges Friiderettsforbund, NFIF) on Monday after being summoned home from a training camp in South Africa.

NFIF officials said Vukicevic had agreed to the suspension while an investigation proceeds into e-mails he allegedly wrote and sent between 2001 and 2003. The e-mail correspondence with Serbian coach and doctor Srdjan Djordjevic involves the use and effects of various illegal substances, and can ruin his career if found to be authentic.

Among other things, reported newspaper Dagbladet, Vukicevic allegedly wrote that several of the athletes he was working with had used both testosterone plasters and growth hormones, and he both questioned and commented on their effects. He wrote that he was certain one named athlete used such drugs,  resulting in improved speed and strength.

Track and field coach Petar Vukicevic is fending off a doping drama that’s being linked to a family feud. PHOTO: Norges Friidrettsforbund

NFIF announced Monday that Vukicevic claims, however, that the e-mails were manipulated, “and he wants a close examination” of them. “Petar Vukicevic has shown willingness to cooperate in relation to these serious charges,” NFIF President Svein Arne Hansen said. “We, meanwhile, must view this case in connection with the ethical values of sport. With the situation as it is now, we have suspended Vukicevic until (anti-doping agency) Antidoping Norge reaches a conclusion based on its investigation.”

The athletics association also has called for all athletes who have worked with Vukicevic to make themselves available to Antidoping Norge, and repeated a request that Antidoping Norge make the investigation a priority. The anti-doping agency is itself under criticism, because it was first made aware of the e-mails several years ago. Antidoping Norge dropped its investigation at the time, however, and NFIF claims it was never made aware of the mails, which now also reveal allegedly new information.

Divorce fallout
The e-mail exchange between Vukicevic and Djordjevic, who also has coached Christina Vukicevic, occurred during the two years leading up to Vukicevic’s divorce that reportedly set off a long-simmering feud within the Vukicevic family. Petar Vukicevic’s ex-wife, Turid Syftestad, has publicly confirmed she’s the one who turned the e-mails over to Antidoping Norge, which put the doping suspicions into motion and ultimately led to their public release in newspaper Dagbladet over the weekend. Syftestad, a data expert who shared an e-mail account with Vukicevic at the time the e-mails were written, denies the manipulation charges and has claimed “the truth must come out.”

She also has admitted, though, that she no longer has contact with either her daughter Christina, long one of Norway’s best hurdlers, or her son Vladimir, also an athlete. That’s prompted several sports officials and commentators to link the doping suspicions to a lust for revenge following an apparently bitter divorce.

Adding to the drama, notes newspaper Aftenposten, is news broadcast by Norway’s TV2 that the father of Christina’s fiancé, pro-football player Vadim Demidov, resorted to unconventional means to recover funds allegedly owed to the Demidov family by a sports agent. Sergej Demidov reported hired a reputed loan shark to recover the money.

The controversy involving their fathers has left both Christina Vukicevic, who had to withdraw from competing in last summer’s Olympics because of poor performance earlier in the season, and Vadim Demidov in what Aftenposten called “involuntary supporting roles.” NFIF stressed, however, that Christina is under no suspicion of doping herself.

“She’s not even mentioned (in the e-mails),” Hansen of NFIF told newspaper Dagsavisen on Tuesday. “These are mails from before the time she began to excel.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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