Doping program angers ski queen

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Norwegian cross country skiing champion Marit Bjørgen was furious that a Swedish documentary crew gained access to confidential blood samples taken by the International Ski Federation (FIS), when the athletes themselves don’t even see the results. Meanwhile, the only Norwegian named in the program was angry that Norway’s ski federation (Norges Skiforbund) didn’t defend him, but deflected all questions to the FIS.

Marit Bjørgen cheers after crossing the finish line first, with Therese Johaug of Norway right behind her. Bjørgen skied the 30-kilometer (18-mile) course in Sochi in just one hour, 11 minutes and 5.2 seconds. Johaug was 2.6 seconds behind that and Steira finished with a time of one hour, 11 minutes and 28.8 seconds. PHOTO: Sochi 2014

Marit Bjørgen cheers after winning the 30-kilometer (18-mile) cross-country race at the Sochi Olympics last month. Bjørgen is angry a Swedish television network gained access to confidential medical records showing the blood values of athletes from the 2000s, when the skiers themselves don’t even get access to the results. PHOTO: Sochi 2014

Swedish television network SVT produced a documentary on cross-country skiers’ blood values in the 2000s, which aired on Wednesday evening. Norwegian 2002 Salt Lake City gold medalist and World Cup champion Anders Aukland was confronted over his high blood count, reported newspaper VG. He was shocked the Norwegian skiing federation didn’t vouch for him when given the opportunity.

“It’s very strange,” he said. “I have nothing to hide. I feel betrayed by the association I have supported. As the case is presented, it seems personally very uncomfortable. To be connected to cheating is by far the worst experience you can have.”

He said he knows nothing about his blood tests, while the federation sits on an enormous amount of knowledge. “Why couldn’t the federation’s personnel have stood up for me a bit, instead of letting my name hang there,” he questioned. “I think that’s bad.”

Aukland said he contacted the federation’s president and communications chief for support, but they refused to take part in the documentary. “It’s better to answer when you have nothing to hide,” Aukland told VG. “They referred further to the FIS and didn’t accept the program.”

The federation’s communications manager, Espen Graff, would not comment on Aukland specifically, but said they decided not to cooperate with SVT after the network’s first documentary on cross-country doping. “Our experience is that the program makers chose to make a show which is suspicious towards Norwegian athletes on a faulty basis,” he said. “We don’t want to give legitimacy to such a program, with regard to what we experienced last year. There is no evidence that Norwegian athletes have ever done anything improper.”

Confidential samples
Female ski champion Marit Bjørgen angrily stated that a television network shouldn’t get access to confidential information the skiers themselves aren’t privy to. “It’s scary,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), when asked about the documentary following her second place finish in Wednesday’s World Cup ski race at Drammen. “Even I have never been given my blood values from the 2000s by the FIS and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I think they should get on track and explain the situation.”

Bjørgen, who took three gold medals at last month’s Sochi Olympics, said she has nothing to hide but was frustrated by “just speculation, not any facts” in the documentary. “Both the Norwegian people and others are guided by the media and form opinions through media representation,” she said. “Then you feel defenseless when it comes to what you can say yourself.”

FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis told NRK on Wednesday night that while she hadn’t seen the documentary, she understood Bjørgen’s frustration and regretted the information had gotten out. “We would never do this and it is extremely disappointing that it happened,” she said. “This should be kept confidential and it’s only authorized personnel who should have access to this information.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate