Norway’s former ski champion Petter Northug admitted on Friday to having a “serious” problem with alcohol, narcotics and pills tied to “hard partying” since ending his skiing career two years ago. Northug repeatedly described his behaviour and lust for “intense experiences” as “idiotic” at a nationally televised press conference in Trondheim.
Northug’s candid admission and expressions of regret came after he was pulled over by police late last week while driving home to Oslo from a ski training camp for youngsters in Trysil. Police clocked him driving his expensive Jaguar at 168 kilometers an hour in a 110 zone on the E6 motorway northeast of Oslo, and also suspected he was under the influence of drugs. They later raided his home in Oslo and found what Northug confirmed Friday was around 10 grams of cocaine.
He admitted it’s not the first time he’s been out speeding since getting his driver’s license back last year after drunk driving charges in 2014. The former ski racer also revealed on Friday that he’s driven 200kph in an 80 zone, while videotaping his dangerous bravado and sending the video to a friend. Norwegian media has also reported that he was witnessed passing another vehicle at high speed on the two-lane highway between Elverum and Trysil on his way to the summer ski camp earlier last week.
“I have done a lot that I’m ashamed of in the search for excitement and intense experiences,” Northug stated as cameras rolled. In his opening remarks he also claimed that he had not taken his drug and alcohol problem seriously, denied it and hid it from people around him. Now, he admitted, “it’s out of control and I need help.” He claimed that he “never touched dope” when he was active as a professional athlete.
“I have let everyone down again and apologize to everyone involved, especially my family, friends and business partners,” Northug stated, adding that he doesn’t expect any sympathy. He said his problems with drugs and alcohol “gradually” grew after he’d retired as a professional skier in 2018 and has since lacked “structure” in everyday life. He claimed he was now motivated to make changes and undergo rehabilitation, although it was “too early” to say what form his rehab would take.
The question is whether he’ll be believed, since he also expressed deep regrets in 2014 after he crashed a sponsor’s expensive Audi into a guardrail and even left an injured passenger in the car. He was intoxicated when he fled the scene, lost his driver’s license for five years and served a short term in custody with a footlink that confined his movements. He also said then that he was motivated to change his behaviour, and he managed to win more gold medals at the next skiing World Championships the following winter.
After that, though, his skiing career faltered, he didn’t ski with the national team and didn’t take part in the last Winter Olympics in South Korea. When his career ended in 2018 he launched into new ventures including a “Northug” brand of eyewear. He also has been a skiing commentator for Norway’s national commercial TV channel, TV2.
On Friday the 34-year-old former champion said he was resigning from all “assignments” while he concentrates on rehab and the pending court case against him. Northug faces multiple traffic- and drug charges and claimed he’ll accept whatever punishment is handed down, likely to include a jail sentence this time. He claims he was not under the influence of drugs when caught speeding last Thursday night, however, nor does he feel he’s addicted. He said he used cocaine for the first time in January 2019 and hasn’t driven while drunk since 2014.
Questions over cash in his car
He said he gained access to cocaine “through the milieu” he joined after moving from his native Trøndelag to Oslo to be closer to his new lines of work. “I was probably just trying to find a new kick,” he said.
He confirmed that police also found NOK 40,000 in cash in his car (equivalent to USD 4,500). Asked by newspaper Aftenposten what he was doing with so much cash at a time when “hardly anyone” is using cash in Norway, Northug said it merely stemmed from currency exchange after a holiday in Spain. The question of whether it might be tied drug purchases was not addressed.
Northug equated his arrest on speeding and drug possession to a “wakeup call” that will lead to changes in his lifestyle.
“In many ways I’m relieved the police stopped me on Thursday and found what they did at home,” Northug said. “It was a real wake-up call. I’m sorry, it was idiotic, I haven’t been a mentor or idol for anyone since I retired,” he said, adding that he failed to “tackle the transition” to retirement. “I should have done things differently, but it’s difficult to think about that now.”