23 August 2017

Therese Johaug banned from Winter Olympics for sunburn lip cream

Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug will not be able to compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal from the International Ski Federation (FIS) to extend her sanction to 18 months. Both the FIS and Johaug appealed to the CAS after the Norwegian Olympic Committee (NIF) issued a 13-month ban in February, after Johaug returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for clostebol. The FIS appealed to extend the ban, whilst Johaug appealed for a reduction.

As the sanction will run from 18 months from 18 October 2016, it will not expire until 17 April 2018. This will mean that Johaug, 29, will miss the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which runs from 9 to 25 February next year. She has also lost her main sponsor, Fischer, as a result of her provisional suspension.

“It is difficult to understand that Therese’s use of a lip cream, without a performance-enhancing effect, can result in so serious consequences”, said NIF President Tom Tvedt in a statement. “The result was a severe judgment and a different outcome from that which Therese had hoped for”.

“I am heart-broken. I had a dream to get to the Olympics”, Johaug told a news conference 25 minutes after the verdict was announced, reported AP. “I think it is unfair, I feel I was unfairly treated. I feel I did everything right. I went to an expert who gave me this ointment and I asked him if the cream was on a doping list. The answer I got was no.”

Johaug had developed sunstroke whilst at a training camp in Seiser Alm, Italy, in August 2016. She asked the Norwegian team doctor, Fredrik Bendiksen, if he had anything to treat large blisters on her lips, which had burst. Dr. Bendiksen did not have Terra-Cortril, his normal choice of product, so bought Keratoplastica and Trofodermin from a local pharmacy on 3 September 2016. He noted that clostebol was an ingredient, but did not identify it as prohibited.

Both parties in the CAS appeal accepted that Johaug’s use of Trofodermin was not intended to enhance performance. The original NIF decision reveals that the amount of Trofodermin found in her urine was 13ng/mL.

Dr. Bendiksen gave Johaug both creams to use, assuring her when asked that the trofodermin cream was ‘clean’ to use. The box carried a red ‘doping’ warning on the box, however Johaug didn’t see it. The CAS judgment (PDF below) reveals that it is Norwegian cross country team policy that athletes cannot purchase medications when travelling abroad, and all medications must be bought by the team doctor. Dr. Bendiksen has since resigned.

Despite this, the judgment concludes: ‘An athlete cannot abdicate his or her personal duty to avoid the consumption of a prohibited substance by simply relying on a doctor. Although Ms Johaug selected an eminently qualified doctor to assist her in her anti-doping obligations, the ultimate responsibility lies with her. She cannot discharge this responsibility by merely asking about the product’s safety and assuming that her doctor (no matter how highly qualified Dr Bendiksen may be) has done the requisite checks.’

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