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SKIING

Norwegian world champ Johaug faces 14-month ban

Norway's Anti-Doping Agency on Tuesday called for a 14-month suspension against cross-country skier Therese Johaug, a seven-time world champion, after she failed a September drug test.

Norwegian world champ Johaug faces 14-month ban
Johaug addressing the press last month. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
The request will now be forwarded to an arbitration body at the Norwegian Sports Confederation, which will rule on the sanction to be imposed on the former Olympic gold medallist.
 
If the Agency's request is upheld then Johaug would miss the start of the next World Cup in addition to the current one but could be back for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February 2018.
 
“I am glad that (the prosecuting committee within the Anti-Doping Agency) believes in what I have said,” Johaug said in a statement sent by her lawyer. “But I do not understand that what has happened can justify 14 months of suspension.”
 
“I am now looking forward to seeing the case before the arbitration body and I hope that it can happen as quickly as possible,” said the 28-year-old skier, who has already been suspended for two months pending a final sanction.
 
Johaug tested positive for traces of the prohibited anabolic steroid clostebol, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), during an out-of-competition control on September 16.
 
The steroid was contained in a lip cream called Trofodermin, which she used to treat burns during a training session at altitude in Italy in late August.
 
National ski team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen, who has insisted he did not realise the cream contained clostebol, has taken full responsibility and resigned from his post in October.
 
“As a high-level international athlete, Therese Johaug is subject to strict international regulations,” Anstein Gjengedal, an official at the Norwegian Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement.
 
“The athlete's responsibility for what he or she ingests has been established in a number of doping verdicts at the national and international level,” he said.
 
The anti-doping agency has requested that the suspension be applied retroactively, from October 18.
 
An immensely popular athlete in her winter sports country, Johaug won relay gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and silver in the 30km freestyle and bronze in the classic 10km in Sochi 2014.
 
This is the second incident to embarrass the Norwegian Ski Federation this year. At the end of July, men's cross-country skier Martin Sundby was suspended for two months and stripped of his 2014-15 overall World Cup and Tour de Ski titles for unauthorised use of ventoline.
 
The Federation had also assumed the responsibility, having failed to request an authorisation for the use of the anti-asthmatic.

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NORWAY

PROFILE: Norway’s ‘complete competitor’ Aksel Lund Svindal

Norwegian colossus Aksel Lund Svindal will go down in the annals of alpine skiing as one of the very best after claiming world silver in his farewell downhill race on Saturday.

PROFILE: Norway's 'complete competitor' Aksel Lund Svindal
Aksel Lund Svindal celebrates third place in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images North America / AFP
Coming in just two-hundredths of a second behind teammate and close friend Kjetil Jansrud was the perfect send-off for the 36-year-old Svindal.
 
Svindal has been one of the stars of the ski circuit with 11 titles (overall-2, downhill-2, superG-5, giant slalom-1, combined-1), 36 victories (14 downhill, 17 super-G, 4 giant slalom, 1 combined) and 80 podiums in 17 
seasons on the World Cup.
   
In addition to being a two-time overall World Cup champion (2007, 2009), he is also a five-time world champion in downhill, giant slalom and super combined, and won Olympic golds in the downhill (2018) and super-G (2010).
   
Standing 1.89m (6'2″) tall, Svindal said he was prepared for the next stage of his life.
   
“I think I'll miss it not in a sad way, in a way that is 'That was awesome',” he said. “But even good things come to an end and you can think back at all the good memories.”
   
The ever-modest and affable Svindal, be it speaking in his native Norwegian or fluent English or German, pinpointed respect as the one thing he wanted to take with him from skiing.
   
“This is an awesome sport, not just the racing part, but the respect between the racers,” he said. “There's a lot of things this sport can be really proud of and I'm part of that sport so that's something I want to try and take with me into other things I do. I hope I contributed on that side in the sport as well.”
 
 'Amazing career'
 
Norwegian teammate and long-time World Cup 'Attacking Viking' confidant Jansrud was full of praise for Svindal.
   
“There are not many people who get to retire with such an amazing career,” he said.
   
Svindal made his World Cup debut in 2002 and went on to become the oldest Olympic alpine ski gold medallist when he swept to victory in the 2018 Olympic downhill in Pyeongchang.
   
In between, many kilometres of downhill skiing were covered by the racer credited as an outstanding role model and driving force behind the Norwegian team's winning philosophy of keeping it simple.
   
Svindal retires as one of the most decorated skiers ever, having being crowned world champion five times, twice picking up the crystal globe for best overall skier, as well as winning a medal of each colour at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
   
He is a complete competitor who has also had to overcome some horrific injuries, none less so than when he crashed in Beaver Creek in 2007. He also sat out the 2015 season and most of 2016 because of injuries.
   
But Svindal is known for his supreme physical conditioning, and each time he bounced back.
 
US ski star Lindsey Vonn, who ironically races her final downhill on Sunday, has forged a deep friendship with Svindal, often training together.
   
“When athletes in the past have retired, I've been the same way, 'No, you can do it, keep going, anything is possible',” she said. “But as an athlete, when you get to that point, you just know in your gut that it's time.
   
“Aksel is in the same position as I am. We are both kind of accepting where we are at the moment and it's just nice to be able to talk to someone who is going through the same thing as I am at the exact same time.”