Police gave Northug special treatment

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Disgraced Norwegian ski star Petter Northug, who crashed a sponsor’s expensive Audi during a drunken rampage last spring, is still awaiting his punishment but a new book shows that he already received special treatment from police right after his arrest. Northug, now gearing for a comeback on the ski trails this winter, reveals himself that he had a blood alcohol level of 1.65, which normally results in mandatory jail time.

Police examine the wrecked Audi belonging to Norwegian skiing star Petter Northug, after it crashed through a rotary and into a guardrail early Sunday morning in Trondheim. Police suspect drunk driving was involved. PHOTO: Henrik Sundgård / NTB Scanpix

This is what Petter Northug’s sponsored Audi looked like after he crashed it into a barrier at high speed in Trondheim last spring. He was charged with drunk driving, excessive speeding and leaving the scene of the accident with an injured passenger. The new book about Northug claims that his passenger had urged him to flee, though, after both agreed they weren’t badly injured. Audi has since withdrawn its sponsorship of Northug, but grocery store chain Coop has stuck with him. PHOTO: Henrik Sundgård / NTB Scanpix

Newspaper Dagbladet reported on the release of the book by author Sverre M Nyrønning Wednesday. Editor Harald Engelstad of the book’s publisher, Aschehoug Forlag, confirmed to state broadcaster NRK that Northug’s blood alcohol level was 1.65. Legal precedent in Norway calls for mandatory jail terms of up to a year for all cases over 1.5.

Jail time for Northug would severely disrupt his ski training for the upcoming season. Northug’s own account of what happened that fateful night in Trondheim in early May indicates that he already has received special treatment and speculation is flying over whether he’ll receive more when his case comes up in court.

Northug, quoted throughout the book, was placed in what’s called a glattcelle, the Norwegian version of a drunk tank. Northug said he was given “a good mattress,” though, and a warm blanket. “I didn’t feel at all incarcerated, and the police on duty were very nice to me,” he said. Northug even went so far as to describe his glattcelle experience as trivelig (pleasant).

“I thrived there and could gladly have stayed there longer,” Northug told author Nyrønning. “It was quiet, calm and I could be in peace.”

A chastened Petter Northug, long known as the "bad boy" of skiing, finally talked to state broadcaster NRK a week after his drunken spree dominated headlines in Norway. Now he's gone into more detail. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

A chastened Petter Northug, long known as the “bad boy” of skiing, finally talked to state broadcaster NRK a week after his drunken spree dominated headlines in Norway. Now he’s gone into more detail. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

It’s surprising Northug can remember his drunk tank experience given how intoxicated he was, but the book goes on to report that when he was ready to be released, the police also helped smuggle him out of the police station in Trondheim, to avoid all the reporters standing outside. Northug was driven from the station, concealed in a police car, and later taken to the hytte of one of Northug’s supporters in Åre, over the border in Sweden.

“Petter didn’t want to be taken his home at Byåsen (in Trondheim), and not home to his parents either,” his manager Are Sørum Langås is quoted as saying in the book. “He wanted to flee as far as possible, out of the country, convinced that everything was lost, hie career, his sponsors, his money, the live he’d lived, his future.”

Police admit that Northug got special treatment but “understood that Northug needed protection.” They agreed to drive him out of the station in a patrol car and to a location agreed upon with lawyer, Rasmus Brodtkorb, who drove him to a station ironically called “Hell.” Once there, Northug was picked up by his manager and driven on to Åre.

“Petter talked and talked, cried, exclaimed over how he could have been so dramatically stupid, how he’d let his family and friends down,” Langås claimed in the book. “He was in despair.”

Commentators already were noting that the timing of the book’s release is far from coincidental. Not only does it “scoop” journalists and give Northug a chance to tell his version of events, but it may be geared at drumming up sympathy for his drunken spree. The book is primarily a biography of sorts about Northug, his family and his extraordinary skiing career that resulted in Olympic gold medals and World Championships before he had a disappointing season last year. The book also claims that Northug had felt unfairly treated by the Norwegian national skiing federation, which had banned some of his sponsorship deal, leading Northug to quit the national team last year.

Egalitarian Norwegians, though, also make a point of stressing equal treatment for all, and it may backfire if Northug receives more special treatment. Jann Post, Nordic skiing commentator for NRK, said he thinks the book is part of Northug’s strategy, not least to steal the thunder of the tabloid press.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund