– It is very difficult to defend oneself against attacks that are anonymous. I feel sorry for the athletes who are viewed as possible cheaters because of such reportage. At the same time, we should be happy that we have critical and digging journalism.

Athletes Cross Country biathlon IOC Olympics dopingOlympic biathlete, Salt Lake City: Pixabay.com

Too bad that athletes, in general, are suspected

– It’s a pity that athletes, in general, are being suspected. The Norwegian anti-doping profile, Inggard Lereim, sees nothing new in the much talked about a documentary made by Swedish Television (SVT) regarding possible doping cases in cross-country.

Wednesday evening, the controversial «Uppdrag granskning» (Mission: Review) episode was broadcast. Lereim was among those who followed it.

– This contains no unknown information, as such, is his first comment when NTB asks him about what he had just watched.

Abnormally high blood values is a key topic in the documentary. Together with  Sunday Times, ARD and Republik magazine, SVT has gained access to a database containing in excess of 10,000 test samples from almost 2,000 top notch cross-country skiers.

In the documentary, it is revealed that more than 70 medal winners in the Olympics and the World Championships have had abnormally high blood values since 2001. It is pointed to that 16 Norwegian skiers have shown suspiciously high values and that the likelihood of blood doping is considered as significant in three of those cases.

– Firstly, one must wonder if the numbers they have gained access to are factual. There are only two persons in the FIS (International Ski Federation) who have access to this information and which one of them has smuggled such a large table out? There are 10,000 tests involved, and it’s an immense work involved to review and assess that, says Lereim.

– It is very difficult to defend oneself against attacks that are anonymous. I feel sorry for the athletes who are viewed as possible cheaters because of such reportage. At the same time, we should be happy that we have critical and digging journalism.

Understands the criticism

Lereim has been working on anti-doping since 1975, both nationally and internationally. He has been used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In 2001, Lereim fronted FIS during the Lahti World Cup. A number of Finnish cross-country athletes were caught for being part of a systemic national doping program.

The 76-year-old believes that the SVT documentary is overtly conclusive in the presentation. In the hours before the documentary was broadcast on Wednesday, several actors went out hard against what they think is junk journalism.

– They have been quick to draw conclusions based on a rather weak basis. – I am a surgeon and orthopedic, therefore I will not talk about blood doping or asthma medicines as such, but I understand the criticisms that Swedish sports authorities utter against the outings, he says.

Lereim points out that so-called blood passes are monitored by Danish experts.

– Those who have been responsible for and controlled blood passes in FIS are not Finns, Swedes or Norwegians, but Danes. – There has been no one who has sneak peek at the cards, but people from Scandinavia’s least prominent ski country, he tells NTB.

Problems related to asthma

A significant part of the reportage also problematized the use of asthma medicine in cross-country skiing. The case involving Martin Johnsrud Sundby was used as an example.

According to SVT, 70 percent of all Norwegian Olympic medals have been won by athletes using asthma medicine since 1992. The figure for Sweden is 50 percent.

– Which nations have asthmatic athletes has been investigated. It is a fairly equal use of this in all cold countries like Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Canada and slightly higher than for Central parts of Europe. – It is a significant problem and a great challenge for cross-country to apply preventive measures regarding respiratory ailments, says Lereim.

Source – Norway Today

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