News 14th February 2017

Therese Johaug receives 13-month ban for use of lip cream

Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug is considering an appeal after receiving a 13-month ban for use of a cream to treat lip blisters caused by sunburn. On 10 February, a Norwegian Olympic committee (NIF) panel found (judgment below) that Johaug failed to sufficiently investigate whether the lip cream, Trofodermin, contained prohibited substances. Johaug tested positive for clostebol, an anabolic steroid, on 16 October 2016 and was initially suspended two days later. Her suspension will be backdated from then and will expire on 17 November 2017.

The panel accepted that Johaug received assurances from Fredrik Bendiksen that Trofodermin did not contain prohibited substances after Johaug asked him directly. Bendiksen has since resigned as Norway’s team doctor. The panel also found that the amount of clostebol present in Johaug’s sample was insufficient to have a performance-enhancing effect.

‘I am glad that the adjudication committee sees that there was no performance-enhancing intent or effect from the use of the lip cream’, read a statement from Johaug published through her lawyer on her internet site. ‘I am also glad that the committee would agree that I had no reason to doubt the assurances I was given by the team doctor. I realise that doping rules should be strict. It still feels wrong that I can get a thirteen-month exclusion for the use of a lip cream. I will spent the next few days thinking about what to do next with my lawyer.’

However, Anti-Doping Norway (ADNO) – which had sought a 14-month ban – is also considering whether it should appeal for a longer sanction. ‘The Prosecution Committee of Anti-Doping Norway will take a few days to read the judgment carefully and consider the reasoning carefully before taking a final decision on a possible appeal’, read a statement. ‘The Prosecution Committee notes that the NIF’s adjudication committee takes the prosecution’s view that the athlete has a personal responsibility’.

It appears that Bendiksen bought the lip cream for Johaug at a local pharmacy during a training camp in Italy at the end of August 2016, after Johaug suffered sunburn and sunstroke including blisters on her lips. According to the decision, Johaug asked Bendiksen if the cream was OK to use and he assured her that it was. Johaug did not notice a doping warning on the packet in Italian.

‘When Johaug received and used the cream, she knew that the cause of the wound on her lip was not the usual cause’, reads the judgment. ‘She knew/should have known that she was allowing herself to be treated with other medicines than her “usual” medicine. She also knew that the first cream, Keratoplastica, had failed to have the desired effect on her lip, and that the second cream would therefore have to have other properties/active substances. In the opinion of the Adjudication Committee, these circumstances necessitated a greater degree of care on her part. She also knew that the national team’s medical bag did not contain an appropriate medicine, and that Bendiksen “… was going out to see if he could find something at the pharmacy” […] There was therefore a risk that Bendiksen had purchased a pharmaceutical substance that he was not (well) acquainted with. On this basis, the Adjudication Committee has determined that Johaug’s questions to and assurances from the doctor did not constitute sufficient investigations on her part. At the very least, she should have satisfied herself to an even greater degree that the doctor had checked the product against the Prohibited List. It was not enough for her simply to trust that he had (probably) done so.’

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