Norway’s anti-doping chief is calling on the City of Oslo to withdraw its financial support for the X Games action sports event set to begin in the Norwegian capital this week. The call comes a day after Norway’s national skiing federation broke its own agreement with the X Games organizer in Oslo, TV2, because of allegations TV2’s partner ESPN isn’t following the regulations of the world’s anti-doping agency WADA.
“If they can’t make sure that everyone has equal opportunity to win in international sporting competition, I think it’s wrong for the City of Oslo to support X Games with NOK 42 million (USD 5 million),” Anders Solheim, leader of Antidoping Norge, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday.
The Norwegian anti-doping forces are raising objections to X Games just before they’re due to get underway in Oslo on Wednesday. The Oslo version of the US-initiated competition among snowboarders, skiers and skateboarders will take place at three venues: Tøyen, where “BigAir” skiing and snowboard exhibitions will fly off ramps as high as 57 meters that have been created with scaffolding; Filipstad for skateboarding events and Wyllerløypa in the hills above Sørkedalen for snowboard superpipe competition.
Organizers could announce over the weekend that X Game events are all but sold out, with around 25,000 tickets snapped up to the various events that begin with skateboarding at Filipstad Wednesday and end with superpipe on Sunday. “It’s incredibly cool that so many want to experience action sport at its rawest, in the center of Oslo,” TV2 project leder Ola Gråberg told his own TV channel.
Problems cropped up during the weekend, though, when the national skiing federation (Norges Skiforbundet) sent a letter to TV2 and a press release to all other media that it was breaking its agreement to cooperate with and support X Games Oslo. “For Norges Skiforbundet (NSF) it’s impossible to have an agreement with the organizers when no drug testing will be carried out in connection with competition,” stated Erik Røste, president of the skiing federation. “NSF has zero tolerance when it comes to doping, and its fundamental that the WADA code and the sports’ regulations for drug testing be followed at all athletic events in Norway.”
TV2 officials insisted that snowboarders and skiers taking part in Oslo have a license from the International Ski Federation (FIS) that make it possible to be tested outside of competition. “Everyone can be tested, because everyone taking part in Oslo X Games has an FIS license,” TV2 chief executive Olav T Sandnes told Oslo newspaper VG.
That’s not good enough for the Norwegian skiing federation, which insists on testing during competition. Sandnes told VG that TV2 had forwarded NSF’s demands to the primary organizer, ESPN, which he said had “the final word” as owner of X Games events.
Taxpayer support tied to NSF approval
Solheim of Anti-Doping Norge went a step further on Monday with his demand that the City of Oslo withdraw its funding for an event that lacks “in competition” drug testing. The city’s decision to spend taxpayers’ money on the event was based largely on the national skiing federation’s support for X Games. With that gone, the city has lost the assurances it thought it had in sanctioning the project, which also was seen as a means of promoting Oslo as a winter sports venue.
Hallstein Bjercke, the local politician who signed the funding deal with TV2 in 2015, defended the city’s funding, however. His Liberal Party lost the election and a Labour-led government is now in charge at City Hall, but he doesn’t think they should withdraw funding. He agreed that cooperation with Norway’s skiing and snowboarding federations was important, “but there was no agreement that the organizers must comply with the official athletic organizations. Bjercke does not see the lack of drug testing during competition as a violation of the agreement between the City of Oslo and TV2.
There was more bad news for the X Games organizers after some sports stars dropped out of the event. Among them was Norway’s own Silje Norendal, who broke her hand and possibly injured her liver after a fall during World Cup competition in South Korea on Sunday.