UPDATED: Ski producer Fischer isn’t the only sponsor who may withdraw from contracts they have with Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug. Several other companies that have sponsored her, including Oakley, Colgate and Tagheuser, have a right to revoke contracts following her doping conviction that currently has resulted in a 13-month suspension from her sport.
“This was one of the consequences we knew would come,” Johaug’s manager, Jørn Ernst, told news bureau NTB after Fischer confirmed it was breaking its contract with Johaug. The ski producer later added that it would not demand refunds of bonuses already paid out to Johaug and she won’t have to return all the Fischer skis she’s been using.
“We just have to accept this and then have a dialogue with Fischer when her suspension is over,” Ernst added. He said on Tuesday that he hadn’t been contacted by other sponsors who may want to break their contracts with Johaug also, but he confirmed that anti-doping clauses in the contracts make it entirely possible for them to do so. Some of Johaug’s Norwegian sponsors including Asko, Isklar/United Bakeries and her home community’s power company Nord-Østerdal kraftlag, told newspaper Aftenposten that they did not intend to dump the skiing star. As an Asko spokesperson put it, “we don’t kick someone when they’re down.”
Johaug did win more support from Norway’s ski queen Marit Bjørgen on Tuesday, who said she now questions what kind of rights athletes really have when their lives and careers can be so damaged because of simple error (involving the use of a lip salve that, unbeknownst to Johaug, contained a steroid).
“The doping regulations are meant to catch those who consciously cheat,” Bjørgen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “When we now have a situation like this, where Therese definitely was believed that she hasn’t done anythinig to enhance her performance, it’s completely unreasonable that she’s being punished so hard.” Johaug was hit with a 13-month suspension last week that is subject to appeal.