Norwegian three-time Olympic cross-country skiing medalist Therese Johaug has received a provisional suspension of two months pending a full investigation into her positive doping test.
Therese Johaug is the world’s best cross country skier and took three gold medals at the World Championship in Falun, Sweden last winter. She won a gold medal in the 4 x 5 km relay at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The Norwegian ski federation said Johaug tested positive for the steroid Clostebol and the substance had come from a lip cream. The attorney for the Norwegian Anti-Doping Agency said the fact that she has been suspended means she has some degree of fault.
According to the Norwegian ski federation, the steroid had been in a lotion given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen for treating sunburn on her lips during high-altitude training in August. Bendiksen has since resigned and he described the violation as his "personal mistake as a doctor". Bendiksen in his testimony said that he had bought the ointment Trofodermin at a pharmacy in Livigino, Italy, when the team was doing high altitude training nearby in August. Team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen claimed not to have checked the packaging that would have informed him that the cream contains substances banned under anti-doping laws.
Anstein Gjengedal, chairman of the committee, said the reason for the decision is that the prosecution committee is of the opinion that the athlete cannot be said to have acted without fault. The Anti-Doping Norway committee chairman added the suspension means that the athlete cannot participate in competitions and organised training. The suspension was intended to allow time for a more details investigation of the case, said Anti-Doping Norway.
Johaug said, between sobs during what was termed by many as one of the most painful press conferences in local memory, this situation is completely indescribable. The Norway’s crown princess of skiing was inconsolable in front of an assembled Norwegian press corps and on live TV aired nationwide by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and TV2. Johaug added she was “furious” because she asked the doctor if the cream was on the doping list, and he replied in the negative. Johaug further added the doctor is an expert on sports medicine and she had “full confidence’ in him.
The Norwegian Anti-Doping Agency will determine the appropriate penalty for both Johaug and Bendiksen after investigations.
The suspension means the three-time Olympic cross-country skiing medalist will miss the start of the World Cup season. Johaug remarked she would instead focus on "working for a full acquittal" than to appeal against the provisional suspension. Johaug remarked she was willing to accept the suspension. In a press statement issued by the Norwegian Ski Federation, Johaug said she is looking forward to a thorough and complete treatment of the matter as quickly as possible.
The seven-time world champion, under international anti-doping rules, could face between a two-month suspension and a four-year ban.
In recent years, Norway have dominated men's and women's cross-country skiing and won 11 medals at the last Winter Olympics, including five gold medals.