Norway’s anti-doping agency has determined that top skier Therese Johaug should be suspended for 14 months after she tested positive for a steroid in September. Anti-Doping Norge’s committee that prosecutes doping cases claimed that Johaug is to blame for not checking the contents of a cream she used to treat sun-blistered lips.
Johaug was sentenced “to the loss of the right to take part in competition and organized training, along with the right to hold any elected positions, for a period of 14 months.” The suspension would begin from the day she was suspended on a preliminary basis, October 18, 2016.
The committee, appointed by Anti-Doping Norge’s board but independent of the agency’s administration, will now forward its decision to the judicial commission of Norway’s national athletics federation (Norges Idrettsforbund, NIF), which is charged with evaluating and implementing a final verdict. When it formally receives the recommendation from Anti-Doping Norge, Johaug will be given three weeks to appeal.
Johaug stated that she was glad the committee “has believed what I have said,” regarding how she came to receive and use the lip cream. She objected, though, to the length of the sentence, which will not only ruin this year’s ski season for Johaug but also extend into next year’s.
“I can’t understand that what happened is just cause for being shut out for 14 months,” Johaug responded.
Committee cites ‘degree of fault’
The lip cream called Trofodermin had been given to Johaug by the national team’s doctor, who bought it at a local pharmacy in Italy where the team was training last summer. It was found to contain klostebol, an “eksogene anabole androgene steroid” that’s on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
In Anti-Doping Norge’s own account of the case, the committee acknowledged that Johaug “received medication for a confirmed medical condition by a national team doctor engaged by Norges Skiforbund (Norway’s national skiing federation).” The doctor, who has since resigned, was also said to have had “lengthy experience with sports medicine” and Anti-Doping Norge called him “an expert in the area.”
Johaug, according to the prosecuting committee, “has not intentionally … broken doping regulations” and has portrayed an “insignificant” amount of fault. “It is the degree of fault that determines the suspension’s length.”
‘Bound by strict regulations’
The committee claimed, however, that Johaug “can be blamed for not conducting any further investigation of the medication she received and used, especially since its packaging was marked DOPING.” The committee noted that Johaug has competed at the international level “for many years, and is or should be familiar with the demands of athletes’ obligations for being careful.”
Anstein Gjengedal, a former chief of police in Oslo who leads Anti-Doping’s committee, stated that “Therese Johaug is, as an international top athlete, bound by strict international regulations.” Her responsibility “for what she ingests into her body is laid down in statutes and a series of doping verdicts nationally and internationally.”
He added that it would take “a few days” to complete the committee’s documentation before it would be sent to NIF.