Blood tests aim to prove innocence

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Norwegian and Swedish skiing federations have started to gather blood test results from top skiers in the 1990s, in an attempt to remove speculation about blood doping after a Swedish documentary cast suspicion on them last week. The documentary was met with shock, warnings of legal action and denial of any wrongdoing.

“I will try to document the average blood values to see if they can show whether Norwegian skiers contributed to the increase (in hemoglobin levels) that FIS (The International Ski Federation) observed,” Ola Rønsen, former coach for the Norwegian skiers, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Rønsen is responsible for gathering the information about the test results.

According to the president of Norway’s national ski federation (Norges Skiforbund), Erik Røste, the results could be ready already next week. “We’re hoping to have the results before Holmenkollen,” Røste told NRK, referring to the annual World Cup competition in Nordic skiing and ski jumping at Holmenkollen that will take place in Oslo from March 15-17. The Swedish skiing federation (Svenska Skidförbundet) is doing the same work from Sweden.

Petter Northug, one of Norway’s current skiing heroes, told reporters on Wednesday that he thinks it’s “smart” for the federations to gather the data “and put the facts on the table.” Like other top athletes, he lives under constant concerns about doping. Otherwise, Northug said he hadn’t followed the latest uproar closely because it emerged during the world championships when he was concentrating on winning races. He’ll be back on the ski tracks in World Cup competition in Lahti, Finland this weekend, then at Holmenkollen next weekend. He’ll also take part in a sprint at Bislett Stadium in Oslo on March 18.

The controversial documentary, which aired on Swedish television last week, raised new suggestions of doping and implicated Scandinavian heroes like legendary Norwegian skier Bjørn Dæhlie. The documentary referred to test results showing unnaturally high hemoglobin levels, indicating that skiers manipulated their blood to raise oxygenation and heighten performance.

The skiers as well as sports officials have denied any wrongdoing and claimed the documentary was based on weak sources and questionable methods.  They also said higher blood levels could be caused by the extensive elevation training they did at the time.

Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz

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