Petter Northug, 28, totaled his Audi early Sunday morning while under the influence of alcohol, driving it into a barrier just a few hundred meters from his house in Trondheim, Norway. He was with another man, who was born in 1991, and police were initially unsure who was driving, but both men were charged at the scene.
In an exclusive interview with VG, Northug explained how he ran from the scene to his house around 5:30 a.m. Before doing, he asked his friend, whom Northug described as the passenger, if he was OK, and both confirmed they were unharmed.
“There was no damage from what we could see, and the next thing that happens is that I am acting in panic and want to get away from the place and space,” Northug said, according to a translation.
Minutes after he arrived home, police showed up at his door.
According to a statement Northug’s manager, Are Soerum Langås, sent to Norwegian media on Sunday night, Northug deeply regrets driving under the influence, but was grateful his poor judgement didn’t cause more harm, according to the Times Columnist.
“I am very unhappy now and very disappointed with what I’ve done,” he said, according to a translated article on VG.no. “I have openly told police about what happened and I am prepared to take the punishment for my actions.”
Police spokesman Baard Jacobsen told TV2 that the car was likely exceeding the speed limit of 40 kilometers per hour (roughly 24 miles per hour) when it drove off the road on a curve. His friend, whom police declined to identify, was found beside the car with minor injuries.
Northug’s Audi A7 was leased to Team Northug. The police investigation, in which formal charges will be filed, could take up to two weeks and depends on the findings of Northug’s blood alcohol content, according to NRK.
Witnesses told VG they saw Northug at three clubs before midnight on Saturday and into Sunday morning. NRK was on site when the car was towed Monday afternoon from roadside assistance to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
The press release stated that Northug had complied with police questioning and gone to an “undisclosed location” to think about his predicament.
“I know that I am a role model for many young people and I fully acknowledge that I have not acted like a role model should,” he said, according to the Times. “I want to apologize to all of those and to all of those who are now disappointed with me.”
His major sponsor, Coop Norway released its own press release acknowledging the situation.
“We think this is a very sad and serious matter and is disappointed that Peter has committed a serious offense,” CEO Svein Fanebust wrote. “He has behaved in a manner not in accordance with the ideals he will promote as part of the cooperation agreement between Coop Norway and him.”
He added that Coop will give Northug some time to think before talking about the consequences. His contract does include an exit clause.
“Whether or not we will choose to use this ability is far too early to say,” Fanebust stated. “We need to discuss the matter thoroughly.”
Norwegian National Team director Vidar Løfshus, who met with his head coach Åge Skinstad on Sunday about Northug, told NRK the whole situation was very sad.
“First and foremost, Petter, but also for the whole Ski Norway,” he said, according to a translation. “We will be in touch with Peter and his manager Are Langås.”
Northug trains independently of the national team, but represents them at international competitions.
The Norwegian Ski Federation released a statement including the following on Sunday night:
“Norwegian Ski Federation has been informed about the accident in Trondheim and Petter Northug has admitted to having driven a car after consuming alcohol. The NSF is very sorry about what happened. This is a serious issue for Petter Northug and for the entire Norway ski community. The Ski Federation will continue to have dialogue with Northug and his team about this serious incident.”