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Russia Sweeps for First Time in Olympic History; Legkov Captures Gold in 50 k

Alexander Legkov (3) after winning his first Olympic medal with gold in the 50 k freestyle mass start on Sunday, the last day of the Sochi Games. He beat fellow Russians Maxim Vylegzhanin (not shown) and Ilia Chernousov (r). Vylegzhanin took silver by 0.7 seconds, just a tenth of a second ahead of Chernousov in third, and Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby (1) missed a medal by 0.2 seconds in fourth.

Alexander Legkov (3) after winning his first Olympic medal with gold in the 50 k freestyle mass start on Sunday, the last day of the Sochi Games. He beat fellow Russians Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov, who took second and third, respectively, to complete Russia’s first-ever podium sweep at the Olympics.

FasterSkier’s coverage is made possible through the generous support of Swix.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It was the kind of race Russia had been dreaming of since it won the bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics nearly six years ago.

President Vladimir Putin vowed that his athletes would be clean in their home Olympics, and in the leadup to the 2010 Vancouver Games, at least 10 Russians in various sports were disqualified for the use of banned substances. In Vancouver, Russia went on to win three total golds for their worst Olympic showing.

Sochi had to be different. Putin put it delicately the week before the Opening Ceremony, telling his athletes, “We’re all counting on you.”

Before the men’s 50-kilometer freestyle mass start on Sunday, the final day of the Sochi Games,  the Russians led the medal count with 28 — 11 golds, 10 silvers and seven bronzes — two of which had come from cross-country skiing, both silver, in the men’s 4 x 10 k relay and men’s classic team sprint. The U.S. ranked second in the standings through Saturday, two medals behind with a total of 27, one medal ahead of Norway.

As of Sunday, Russia was up to 32 medals — out of reach for teams like the U.S., with 27, and Norway, with 26. That afternoon, the host nation’s golden moment finally came in cross-country skiing, less than a day after biathlete Anton Shipulin anchored Russia to gold in the 4 x 7.5 k relay on Saturday night.

And the 50 k victory didn’t come easy, or without some serious tactics and a gut-wrenching four-way race for first after five long laps, each of which included a trip to the stadium halfway through.

Russia’s Alexander Legkov had led the charge — truly turning it up over the last two kilometers to the finish. With a pack of nearly 30 sticking together for the first 45 k of the race, several ambitious hopefuls tried their luck at dropping the field, including Finland’s Lari Lehtonen on the second of five laps, then Michail Semenov of Belarus from around 28 k to 30 k. Finland’s Matti Heikkinen took control from about 32 to 38 k, as another teammate, Iivo Niskanen, tried hard to keep Heikkinen’s pursuers at bay.

If this was going to be a game of cat and mouse, somebody had to help the little guy get away. Unfortunately for the Finns, the hungriest competitor at the front of the chase pack was Legkov. Four years ago, he had let his first individual medal slip away in the 30 k skiathlon when two Swedes, Marcus Hellner and Johan Olsson, and Germany’s Tobi Angerer bested him.

Olsson had forged ahead and Legkov reined them back in, but couldn’t quite close the gap in time for the finish.

Hellner won, Angerer took silver by 2.1 seconds, Olsson was right there in third, and Legkov was another second back in fourth.

Russia's Alexander Legkov basks in the glory of winning his first Olympic medal, gold in the 50 k freestyle mass start on Sunday at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Russia’s Alexander Legkov basks in the glory of winning his first individual Olympic medal, gold in the 50 k freestyle mass start on Sunday at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

No way was he going to let that happen again.

Olsson led a pack of more than 50 early in the race from about 10 to 15 k. He never made any bold moves, and by 18 k, he was back to 20th, five seconds behind two of his teammates, Anders Södergren and Daniel Richardsson toward the front. Hellner did not race because of illness.

An hour into race, which started at 11 a.m., three hours earlier than most of the Olympic races in Sochi, the 30 k mark seemed to be the defining moment — as it presented the third opportunity for racers to change skies. Nobody in contention had opted to go in for a fresh pair yet, with the exception of Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic. Bauer did so at 20 k, and caught back up to the group by 30 k.

There, Legkov was first over the top of the steep climb before the downhill stadium approach, making a point to lead toward the exchange — and then went in. Most everyone followed him, with the exception of Semenov, Austria’s Bernhard Tritscher and Spain’s Imanol Rojo up front.

Five kilometers later, Heikkinen had blasted off the front, 22 seconds ahead of the Semenov-Tritscher-and-Rojo trio. Legkov was up to fifth behind them, forging ahead with Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and American Noah Hoffman over the next lap.

Legkov kept Heikkinen within range, blowing past Niskanen on the descent into the stadium around 35 k — despite Niskanen’s persistent attempts to stay directly in front of him and slow the pace. Three kilometers later, Legkov and Sundby had shaved eight seconds off the gap to come within 14 seconds of Heikkinen.

By their next time into the stadium at 40 k, Legkov had caught him, and 2.5 k later, Heikkinen was down to 13th, nearly 9 seconds back. He ultimately placed 15th.

Sundby and Hoffman followed Legkov as he led them into the stadium for the final opportunity to change skis — which most had already taken advantage of one full lap earlier. They continued down the long descent before the several-kilometer sufferfest back to the top. At the bottom, Legkov again upped the pace in an attempt to break the pack, which included frontrunners like Sweden’s Daniel Richardsson, Legkov’s teammate Maxim Vylegzhanin, and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna.

In the accordion-like reaction that followed, Cologna was involved with an untimely tangle, where he and another competitor collided, breaking his ski. Unable to find an immediate replacement, Cologna, who had already won two golds at these Olympics (in the skiathlon and 15 k classic) slipped to 27th by the finish.

“I’m disappointed,” Cologna told reporters. “It was a big chance to get another medal.”

Hoffman went from 12th to 26th with a broken pole at the bottom of the climb, yet the Russians stayed out of trouble up front.

Alexander Legkov (3) beats out fellow Russians Maxim Vylegzhanin (not shown) and Ilia Chernousov (r) for gold in Sunday's 50 k freestyle mass start -- the last race of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Vylegzhanin took silver by 0.7 seconds, just a tenth of a second ahead of Chernousov in third, and Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby (1) missed a medal by 0.2 seconds in fourth.

Alexander Legkov (3) beats out fellow Russians Maxim Vylegzhanin (not shown) and Ilia Chernousov (r) for gold in Sunday’s 50 k freestyle mass start — the last race of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Vylegzhanin took silver by 0.7 seconds, just a tenth of a second ahead of Chernousov in third, and Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby (1) missed a medal by 0.2 seconds in fourth.

Legkov led Vylegzhanin up toward the stadium for the final kicker of a climb, with Sundby and another Russian, Ilia Chernousov, right behind.

On the steepest portion of the hill, Legkov found another gear and launched another attack over the top to continue to lead into the finish. He outlasted the three others for gold, his first individual Olympic medal, by 0.7 seconds in 1:46:55.2. The two other Russians and Sundby battled for silver, with Vylegzhanin edging Chernousov by 0.1 seconds, and Sundby placing fourth another 0.2 seconds back.

It was Russia’s first-ever podium sweep at the Olympics, and the first time in 78 years that any nation had swept the podium in the 50 k. The race also set a record for the fastest 50 k, surpassing the previous Olympic best of 2:03.

“This victory is special for me because I became an Olympic champion,” Legkov said in a translated press conference. “I congratulate my teammates on their second and third place — this is very good result.”

Legkov explained that he hadn’t thought of the potential for a podium sweep before the race, which came a day after the Norwegian women did just that in the 30 k mass start.

“I thought we could compete for the medals, but when it happened all of a sudden it was a huge success and luck for us,” he said.

Vylegzhanin won his third medal of the Games after taking silver with Legkov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, and Dmitriy Japarov in the relay a week earlier. On Wednesday, he teamed up with Nikita Kriukov to place second in the team sprint.

The Russian podium grinning ear-to-ear after Alexander Legkov (3) won gold, Maxim Vylegzhanin (7) earned his third silver in Sochi, and Ilia Chernousov took bronze in the 50 k freestyle mass start, the last race of the 2014 Winter Games.

The Russian podium grinning ear-to-ear after Alexander Legkov (3) won gold, Maxim Vylegzhanin (7) earned his third silver in Sochi, and Ilia Chernousov took bronze in the 50 k freestyle mass start, the last race of the 2014 Winter Games.

“I’m happy to make the people happy,” Vylegzhanin said. “Even though we’ve lost in the past, we’ve won now.”

And just as expected, the crowd erupted, volunteers danced around the Laura Cross-Country Ski Center and nearby biathlon stadiums, and the team celebrated with as much excitement as they’ve shown all week.

“Russia power, Alexander Legkov, the power of Russia!”  forerunner Sergey Gamuzov, 20, exclaimed.

“It was wonderful day! This day is celebration in Russia — Man Day!”

And thus, the timing couldn’t have been better on the closing day of the Olympics, Men’s Day (formally Defender of the Fatherland Day) in Russia.

Russian Ski Federation President Elana Vyalbe told reporters that while she was confident in her team, she didn’t think that kind of podium dominance was possible.

“Yesterday lots of people said we will have the podium, but I was thinking it was a joke,” she said through a translator.

Pleased with her team, specifically Legkov who “proved he is the king of skiing for at least four years,” Vyalbe said their total medal haul didn’t meet the federation’s expectations.

“We didn’t manage to fulfill our medal plan,” she said. “In sprints, we should have had completely different results.”

Still, some like Norwegian coach Vidar Lofshus, gave credit where it was due.

“It was just a magnificent race by the three Russians,” Lofshus said. “I just feel bad for [Sundby] that he didn’t get his medal.”

“It’s impressive, of course, like when any country sweeps the podium at the Olympics,” Canadian Ivan Babikov said after placing 20th. “It’s amazing, but they are hosting, it’s their Olympics, it’s their course, and they’ve been strong through the whole Olympics. I’m not surprised. Dario crashed at the end and that threw some people off, but those guys were just the strongest at the finish.”

The Russians’ performances at the Olympics have drawn some skepticism from Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth. He compared Legkov’s skiing on the final climb of his leg of the men’s relay last week to that of Johann Mühlegg, the Spanish cross-country skier who was caught doping at the 2002 games.

“Pushing that hard the whole relay and then jump-skating that hill is not possible. Period,” Wadsworth said.

In a press conference after the relay, Legkov declined to address Wadsworth’s allegations.

But Chris Grover, the American head coach, said he found the Russian performances at the Olympics to be plausible — noting that on Sunday, they were not far ahead of Sundby.

“To me, they look like they were in good shape, had good skis, and had really smart strategies during the games,” Grover said. “But they were digging deep like everybody else.”

— Nat Herz & Chelsea Little contributed reporting

 

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About Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (formerly Matthews) is the managing editor at FasterSkier and to most people's surprise, not a guy. When she's not writing, you can find her outdoors in upstate New York or doing the gym thing as a certified personal trainer. Follow her on Twitter @active_alex.

Comments

  1. It’s very unsporting of Wadsworth to suggest that Legkov was doping without any evidence. Did he not see Legkov do the same thing – jump skate the last hill – in the men’s relay? Chapeau to the Russians, especially Legkov who has worked so hard and come so close for years.

  2. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    My gut says Wadsworth is right, but I don’t know that, and assuming Legkov is clean, he’s a great winner. Legkov was certainly due an Olympic gold the way he’s skied in the past.

    It’s worth noting that Wadsworth’s wife had two doping Russian skiers ahead of her in the pursuit at the SLC Olympics. Eventually they were caught so she got (at different times) all three medals from the same event.

  3. I also think Wadsworth is probably right. Legkov was pulling a lot to catch up to Heikkinen whereas Sundby basically drafted the whole race yet Legkov was again powering up that final hill. He could be clean, but I wouldn’t be surprised if was caught doping.

  4. xcskier007 says:

    It’s a bottomless can of worms at this point. Wadsworth definitely went out on the limb with his comments and probably shouldn’t have made them in his position, but odds are on his side he is correct if we actually had thorough enough methods of testing. A recent NY Times article with statements from a Norwegian that worked in a testing lab in Norway went on record indicating he saw numerous Norwegian endurance athletes in the period he worked for the lab from 2000-2009 with positive tests for banned substances but the levels always stayed below the limits to prosecute pretty much puts serious doubt on the one nation of athletes that most people assume compete clean. Regarding the Russians, Valbe was a very decorated skier from the doping era of the 90′s, most of her teammates were busted at the ’97 World Championships (Egorova) and ’02 Olympics (Lazutina & Danilova) so it’s tough to think she competed clean or has the moral strength to put integrity before medals within the current Russian program. Most athletes, coaches and program directors have two choices – win or find a new career, especially true in some countries and this makes the fight against cheating just as hard in sport as on Wall Street.

  5. Whether ultimate correct, I appreciate Wadsworth’s willingness to speak honestly and directly. I have found the comments of most athletes and coaches on FS stilted, guarded and uninformative. I for one and am a fan of reading honest and direct assessments. JW expressed his opinion and I applaud his directness. Perhaps he’s right and maybe he’s not but at least he had the courage and confidence to speak his mind. Informed and direct discourse is more interesting and thought provoking. Well done Justin.

  6. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    I think the bio-passport is the way all endurance sports should go, and wonder why FIS does not embrace this available technology, which should be mandatory for anybody within a determined FIS point profile ranking. That said, it is true that no testing was available for EPO or blood packing during the 1980′s and 1990′s, so it was an “honor” system really, where a significant percent of the top 30 were likely doping, but these guys, like Armstrong, have not tested positive yet, so gotta give them benefit of doubt. If they did dope, the doctors should get the medal for being sneaky.
    Or could do like Bode suggested, and make doping legal, like waxing, and may the best combinations win. I’d buy Swix syringes.

  7. >Or could do like Bode suggested, and make doping legal
    Of course, then those athletes that prefer not to pollute their bodies can just stay home because the Olympics is no longer for them or people like them. I think I prefer a world (and an Olympics) that is slightly broken but still trying to do better (Becky Scott is a real hero and under-celebrated, in this regard). The Olympics is, after all, an important symbol for humanity.

  8. ” I’d buy Swix syringes.”

    Really? I’ve heard they didn’t work in Sochi…

  9. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Seems like that Candian coach with the giant eyebrows made similar accusations of Ruskies at the 1988 oly’s? Evidence suggestts he was probably correct in his accusations. Those Canadian coaches need to calm down and stop causing a ruckus.

  10. From the article: “The U.S. ranked second in the standings through Saturday”
    So, are there really standings? My recollection has always been that total medal count by country was a thing, but the rankings I’ve seen in this Olympics has been by number of gold medals, counting silver and bronze only as tie-breakers. I’m curious: is there a standard measure or do we just make this up as we go along? I kind of like the gold-standard, since counting silver and bronze in the totals is a bit arbitrary (by that I mean that you could count 4ths and 5ths too if you wanted to).

  11. the u.s. is the only country that does it by “medal count”. all other countries use the gold standard. i remember when norway only got like 2-3 golds in torino, but 16 bronzes or something, the norwegian media still ranked estonia’s 4 golds higher. tbf, several u.s. media outlets use the gold standard, google and latimes come to mind.

    fun for the russians to get the sweep on the last day. i hope putin was in the stands.

  12. Legov’s finish looked much less ridiculous than most of Northug’s past winning finishes. I enjoyed the race and the results!

  13. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    I was thinking the same thing Andrew. But on the other hand, usually Northug is not pulling the field earlier in the race too. .

    I seeing the home team winning big at the end of Olympics.

  14. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    A Russian friend living in the US just showed me this about medals http://becausescience.net/fun-with-the-2014-winter-olympic-medal-count/

    Strider2 – I’m impressed you know how the medal count works in all other countries.

  15. What would be interesting is a winter Olympics “traditional sports” medal count. Only use events that have existed for 30 years or more. Eliminate sports that the networks brought in to increase revenue. And go back to the basics that countries have had generations to work on. The sport count would probably be half of what it is today. What would the traditional sports medal count winner be without slopestyle, skeleton. xc sprint, short track, ski/board cross, ski halfpipe, and team figure skating? Maybe NED because long blade hasn’t changed much and they are dominant. Without the benefit of X-Games-like hipster sports the US medal count would surely plummet. Gotta admire USST’ers Shiffrin/Ligety/Weibrecht/Bode/Mancusco for medaling in ultra-competitive Olympic sports that the entire world has had over 80 years to refine and compete in.

    Right or wrong, good to hear Wadsworth speak out. Too little of that in PC North American XC skiing. Maybe now his eyebrows will start to get bushy.

  16. Noah Hoffman, if you read this you skied like a champ. Nice work. I hope that in the future you are able to stand atop the podium for the ol’ USA. Skiing from the front almost all day had to take some of the big names by surprise. Gutsy!!

  17. JimGalanes says:

    Noah’s race, at 1.5% behind is probably the best distance race by any US skier in a decade. (I am not into crunching this data any longer, just an observation) Surely a sign of his potential for top ten and podium finishes in the future. What we also have seen over the past couple of years signs that anti-dopiing efforts are working. One, and just ONE, of the reasons our skiers are doing better and we see more diverse athletes in the top 10-20 especially on the mens side, is that the playing field is more level. I am sure there are still dopers out there, as we have recently learned, but clearly there a fewer and probably not systematic as in the past.

    While no-one knows if Legov has doped, Justin uses a similar term as we hear infamous cycling dopers use. “Not Normal” I think it is great Justin Wadsworth stated what he thinks. Gutsy for him to speak out as we know Marty Hall almost lost his job over similar statement in Calgary in 1988. At this point we do not know if he doped or not, maybe we never will. But I agree with other comments, good to see a guy with the courage and convictions to call it like he sees it. If Legov is doped it clearly shows the impact on the race and what might have played out differently for many skiers in the hunt including Noah!

  18. You might keep in mind that this “courage” so many of you seem to admire is also known as slander.

  19. I believe truth is an absolute defence to allegations of slander. Apparently the Russians have been boosting their EPO levels with xenon gas for years.

  20. JimGalanes says:

    Zimborst, perhaps it is slanderous or not. At least in the US one would have to prove that the statements made concerning you were false. In todays sports world I would think that Legov may not be willing to challenge those statements. Again he may or may not have been doping and I applaud Justin for his courage and his willingness to speak his mind.

  21. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Yeah, as JG points out, Hoffman only 1.5% out, which can reasonably be made up when on a good day. The guy seems torn between school and skiing though. Based on his comments, I would be surprised if he sticks around for 4 more years, but we’ll see.

  22. The references to the Calgary Olympics and M. Hall also remind me what Pierre Harvey said after those olympic races with alleged doping. Basically he said he could ski with these skiers in question like Prokurov all season and than now they ski like they are from a different planet. Would be interesting what Sundby, Sodergren, and others in the lead pac around 45km think about the sudden surge of the Russians toward the end and than the explosive jump skate up the final climb.

  23. JimGalanes says:

    SLOWEPOKEEDSBYN-1.5% with a broken pole, easily with in a percent with out it.

  24. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    JG, easy for you to say, I was sweating watching them ski up those big hills.

  25. Given Russias history it makes all the sense in the world to suspect them of doping when they go 1 2 and 3 in a olympic race.

    But i actually don`t think they were doped. The Russian skiers did not have impressive result up to that race in either xc or biathlon. And if they were doping wouldn’t they be preforming at a higher lvl during the entire Olympics and not just for one race ?

  26. I’m not in a position to accuse anyone in Sunday’s race of any doping. Certainly we can suspect based on the last 15-20 years of Nordic, Cycling, Running, etc that a certain number of athletes in Sunday’s race are probably not 100% clean. I’d like to think otherwise but history tells me differently, even if it may have been inadvertent like with ingesting cold medicines or supplements that contain banned ingredients or cause changes in one’s body that cause a failed test. But Legkov is getting a lot of interest here, let’s review his previous results…2006 Olympic 50k 20th place. 2010 Olympic 50k 14th place. 2013 World Championship 50k 4th place. Top 5 on the World Cup overall rankings the last 5 seasons (more?). Plus a 9th place and a 5th place this season in 30k and 35k skate races. Legkov has a proven record of great performances and in his 3rd Olympic games has previous results that are completely in line with his performance Sunday. Vylegzhanin has 4 top 10′s in the 50k at World Championships or previous Olympics. Chernousov was 12th in the 50k at the 2011 World Championships, took a 3rd in a World Cup 50 last season, and was 8th in the 35k skate earlier this season in Italy.

    All those guys have plenty of results that indicate Sunday was not fluke. Was doping involved, I have no idea, but their previous results indicate that nobody should be surprised about Sunday’s results. Also, Legkov generally hung in towards the front of the main pack the first 35k Sunday and the other two medalists were generally between 15th and 25th. None of those guys was driving the train the first 1:20-1:30 of that race, but when it was go time they went.

    Looking at the same previous history for Hoffman…27th and 30th in his previous World Championship appearances. Outside the top 35 in World Cup distance rankings the last 2 seasons. Best World Cup result in longer races (30k+) the past 4 seasons is a 24th place in a 50k skate. 25th and 27th this season in the 30k and 35k…And Sunday he was in the top 2-4 most of the first 40+k and was still there until he broke a pole…

    I don’t believe Hoffman is on PEDs and I’m not insinuating he is…just pointing out that if you are suspicious of the medalists that when you look at their racing histories Hoffman’s performance Sunday raises just as many questions.

  27. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Yeah, but it would give us, like, 200 more posts of stuff to say if a Ruskie gets busted, so that would be fun.

  28. formerskier says:

    Wow. The double standard is horrible. A National coach publicly accuses doping due to success and many here cheer him on. Where is the evidence against these men? They deserve much better. Wait to crucify them until there is evidence.

    By the way, it was awesome to see Noah skiing so strongly and believe he can be on many podiums in the future, but since when is doping required to beat him with a broken pole? And where is the suspicion against the Norwegian women? A consequence of cleaning up the sport is that we need to believe that it is becoming cleaner instead of using doping as a convenient scapegoat.

  29. Wadsworth is not the only skeptical one. There was a German TV program that accused the Russians of huffing xenon gas, which apparently can ramp up ones own endogenous production of EPO by a factor of 1.6. The program goes further stating that this has been going on for years and was endorsed by the Russian sports minister because it is off of WADA’s radar and totally undetectable. I’m sure we will be hearing more about this down the road. If it turns out that this has any merit, I will be looking at other nations with suspicion as well (with Norway at the top of the list).

  30. Why would Norway be at the top of that list? They (the men) certainly underperformed this olympics after dominating TDS and early WC. Also, most of the Russians have been performing consistently throughout the season. With that logic it would make more sense to accuse the Swedes, who came out of nowhere, after dismal performance at TDS and WC, to take several upsets in the Olympics.

    As for the Norwegian women, those things go in waves. Also, sport and outdoor activity is an integral part of Norwegian life and culture (unlike the U.S.). Each small town/rural community usually has some sort of ski association facility funded by the state lottery. How does that compare with the U.S. where top athletes are, with few exceptions, from a small number of wealthy ski resort towns? Most countries can’t compete with the depth of Norway in skiing. Even Sweden, there is more urbanization so less depth to draw on from the rural communities. Also, there is no history of doping in Norwegian skiing.

  31. campirecord says:

    Makes me sick how naive people are here… The lack of awareness and the denial of the past is mind blowing. The only course of action, like it or not, is to question, question and question again. If you did not dope, you will sleep well at night, much like Armstrong did for 15 years…oh wait… How much do we forget.

    SALT LAKE CITY, 2002: Cross-country skiers Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova stripped of gold and silver medals. Forging ahead for Justin Wadsworth’s wife to finally receive what she should have received.

    TURIN, 2006: Biathlete Olga Pyleva stripped of silver medal, positive for stimulant carphedon.

    Most important of all, the internal Russian conundrum that every international skier knows about:
    VANCOUVER, 2010: Hockey player Svetlana Terenteva reprimanded but escaped ban after positive test for tuaminoheptane, a stimulant in cold remedies. No other Russian positives in Vancouver but the country faced scrutiny after more than half a dozen biathletes and cross-country skiers were banned in the year before the games for using the endurance-enhancer EPO. Then-IOC President Jacques Rogge demanded “strong anti-doping actions” from Russia and raised the issue with Dmitry Medvedev, then Russia’s president. The International Ski Federation subsequently warned Russia to clean up or risk having athletes barred from the Sochi Olympics. It also fined Russia’s ski association and ordered some Russian coaches to be fired.

    I am not even bothering with summer olympics.

    Everyone will remember the 2009 ski season has two groups of Russian skiers created a bipolar team. Those that doped heavily and those that did not. Until it became unbearable for Russian staff to even stand up and even speak their mind at any pre-race meeting. Every second they had to talk, they were reminded with violence ”To clean up or shut the &u&k up, including many collar swinging moves in intra team fights”

    If you think that stuff goes away overnight, you are sadly mistaken and it certainly does not go away when you host the game. Its a well known fact that host countries get a very lax antidoping season because of all the work that needs to be done. Just take a look at how bad lab certification was in Russia.

    National doping is the easiest of all doping, Jamaica is an excellent example of that. When you never test, you never find…

    Now let’s all go hack some 50-50 mixture of xenon and oxygen…

    Makes me so sad to see how naive people are. Every time I take part in a local master crit in North America, I know very well a good bunch of guys are absolutely red eyed in dope and testicular gels. Live with it but don’t be so god damn naive people.

  32. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    US cyclists first got caught doping in 1984 Olympics, and nordy Kerry Lynch a year or so later, so good long history there. maybe have a new separate event, open class “F1″ where you can use any doping shit you can get a hold of. that would be fun to watch.

  33. @Strider2: Yes, Sweden would be at the top of my suspicious list too…Johan Olsson’s performance at world champs last year in the 50k classic was so amazing that it seemed too good to be true. Any why Norway? Specifically because the women were not performing as expected and then suddenly for the 30k their women looked like they should be racing against men. Did they really just finally get the wax and structure right? I hope so. And I hope Johan Olsson is clean too. But I’m skeptical.

  34. formerskier says:

    Campirecord, it is not naivety to believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. It is a choice to believe in the good in people instead of the bad. When we can not personally do anything to uncover the truth with 100% surety, I believe it is better to believe winners are clean rather than hold a cloud of suspicion over anyone who met a doper a couple years ago. If you dig deep enough, you can find reason for suspicion on anyone, including the legendary Bjorn Daehlie, or even the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” US Hockey team.

    Now, once dopers and doping enablers are caught, I say they are lined up execution style and taken out of the sport permanently.

  35. Campie is right about people being naive. Use of xenon gas brings home the point. Go Goggle or Bing xenon and asthma. What? Some asthma inhalers have xenon gas mixed with oxygen in them?! So shocking! Not.

    A classic case of naivety involves the use of inhalers for “asthma”. Coaches and ski racers have long said “Oh, inhalers are not doping!” Even Falla, who is a remarkable skier, once was quoted in FS as saying that inhalers needed for people with “asthma” were no different than people that needed eyeglasses for poor eyesight. Sorry, I think the world is finally wising up to skiers with “asthma” conditions that use inhalers. Especially ones with xenon gas in the mix.

    I put “asthma” in quotes because it is too easy to get a doctor to give prescription sprays for an “asthmatic” skier, even when they don’t have “asthma”. Another factor that proves naivety is that how amazing it is that ski racers are miraculously cured of their debilitating “asthma” problems once they stop high-level ski racing. If xenon makes the banned substance list – it will definitely make a lot of inhaler xenon-huffers look like bad. And this will include a lot of former “asthmatic” US skiers that used them over the decades.

  36. @JimGalanes: You wrote in post #20 that “…at least in the US one would have to prove that the statements made concerning you were false.” So one is guilty until proven otherwise? I was fairly sure it was supposed to be the other way around.

    Some of the people posting in here may very well think that it’s admirable of Wadsworth “to speak honestly and directly”, but at the end of the day he doesn’t have any proof and just comes of sounding bitter that none of the Canadian skiers were able to perform in any of the races.

    @Sven: The Norwegian women have been winning most of the races they’ve entered the last couple of seasons, so yes, I think it was just a problem with the structure/wax in the relay and 10km (the men also had problems with the skis, but on top of that they also underperformed (with the exception of Sundby and Hattestad)). That being said it could just be that they’ve been doping the past couple of years. I don’t think that’s the case however, but since I’m Norwegian I might be a little biased.

  37. justinwadsworth says:

    I think a lot of people here didn’t read my quote correctly. I didn’t say the results of the 50k or other races were strange. What I did say was regarding Legkov’s leg in the relay- ” He compared Legkov’s skiing on the final climb of his leg of the men’s relay last week to that of Johann Mühlegg, the Spanish cross-country skier who was caught doping at the 2002 games.
    “Pushing that hard the whole relay and then jump-skating that hill is not possible. Period,” Wadsworth said.”.
    Having had ski raced at an international level from 1989 to 2003, and coached World Cup, World Championships, and Olympic Games from 2006-2014, I feel I have the right and the knowledge to make such a statement. I said Muhlegg was doping in 2002 and before, because I saw his performances first hand, both as a racer in the races with him, and occasionally watching him race when I was not racing. I have also coached some of the best ski racers in the world from Andy Newell and Kikkan Randall to Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey and Len Valjas. I know what it looks like when someone is in world leading shape, and I know when I see something that’s beyond that. What I saw first hand ( I was on the last climb in Sochi), was beyond world leading shape, and I’m not afraid to say it.
    I’m not saying this as a poor sport because my skiers didn’t do well in Sochi. I have said we made mistakes, and in some cases the athletes didn’t have their best days-I can live with that 100%, but what I can’t live with is cheating still taking place in our sport.

  38. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Okay…here we go….

  39. JimGalanes says:

    Justin-Good job stating your opinion and the clarification. The arm chair quarterbacks and the comments we make here are based on watching TV which does not give a highly accurate perspective! I certainly respect your experience and opinion and am pleased you weighed in here!

  40. Just a brief clarification on my previous comment. I do admire JW’s forthrightness. I was not commenting specifically on his observations regarding the russians. i was referring to his willingness to speak frankly about his athletes’ own performance and his work with those athletes. i admire his honest appraisals. I see strength in confidence when one can acknowledge mistakes. i mean tot juxtapose his comments with his american counterparts where there seems to be an unwillingness to speak honestly.
    I do not mean this to demean the program’s improvements. I am a huge fan of their recent results. I just mean to say that I think it is a sign of confidence and strength to acknowledge a bad day or a mistake.

    with respect to his observations of the russian’s performance…. greg lemond often made similar observations.

  41. And Morten: Your citation to a legal standard for courts of law “innocent until proven guilty”… does not preclude an individual from forming his or her own opinion based on his own observations and experience. I for one formed my own opinion regarding the guilt of OJ Simpson and I am not precluded from doing so by a constitutional standard for criminal proceedings. personal opinion and legal conclusion are not equivalent.

  42. campirecord says:

    Do the math people, athletes cannot sustain 15% year over year gains! and cannot sustain that volume and gain. It’s very simple to see who has a hand in the jar, anyone looking at high level sport statistics, health and training effect knows a high flyer when he sees one. How many crazy naive people saw Ricardo Rico literally sprint up the most demanding climbs in the world and still find that legit, it was so obviously not marginal gains. That team sprint and 50 k wasn’t either. Justin is dead on, there is only one or two times in a given season one can pull a miracle like this and then you should expect thorough body stall, sickness for being at the edge. Anyone sustaining that fitness for a long time is questionable

  43. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    So, is anybody going to say they think somebody at this Olympics was cheating and doping, or not?

  44. @campirecord, “that team sprint and 50k wasn’t either.” wait what about the team sprint? elaborate please…

  45. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    @campirecord “It’s very simple to see who has a hand in the jar, anyone looking at high level sport statistics, health and training effect knows a high flyer when he sees one. ”

    There are gross examples like Riccò or Muhlegg or Armstrong who just blow races apart and are easy to suspect, but I don’t agree it’s this easy to spot in most cases, campirecord. In cycling, would you say it was obvious that Michael Barry was doping from the way he rode? What about, in skiing, Mika Myllylä?

    Or on the women’s side, Kristina Šmigun? I had suspicious about Šmigun from rumours over the years, but not from the way she skiied. Marit Bjørgen today is just as dominant or even more so. So are you saying Bjørgen is doping? It’s surely possible, but I no way of knowing if it’s likely.

  46. JimGalanes says:

    @ Morton, my response was directed at a previous statement regarding slander. Having an opinion and stating it does not necessarily constitute slander. It has nothing to do with innocence or guilt in a criminal process. We all form opinions about virtually every thing in our life and yes some of our opinions are not accurate in the end. An opinion has nothing to do with the facts surrounding innocence or guilt they are just that, opinions.

    Lets face it doping has been a big problem in all sports and in skiing. Even though I believe doping has been greatly reduced the recent bust prove that it is still going on. To generalize people tend to think that doping is sort of a one event deal and that we will see a spike in improvement. While in reality those who are doping are following a careful plan and it is unlikely they are doping just for the Olympics. They are doing it to build up and prepare for all the high level races leading into the Olympics. They are probably also doing it in periods when they are training hardest to maximize the effect of that training.

    It should be very clear that in spite of improved doping control tests the athletes and their support staff are a step ahead. Micro dosing and new, perhaps, undetectable products are always emerging. It seems to me that the opinions of experts like Justin who see first hand, day in and day out, high level racing know what is not normal. While I have no idea if the Russians doped or not. I also know that Lance Armstrong and others doped for years and very few were willing to say he was doping in the absence of a failed test. I guess we should all know better now! I respect people like Justin who are willing to state their opinion publicly, and be accountable for their own performance. So, perhaps we should listen and respect Justins’ opinion he may just be right!

  47. I’m very interested and glad to hear these thoughts from coach Wadsworth both in the article and from his comment above. My main question is why are these not finding their way into a more mainstream news source. No disrespecting this site – it’s excellent for ski enthusiasts, but I think these allegations deserve more attention/consideration/scrutiny from both sides of the issue and could get a lot more traction if they were found in a source like cbc, globe and mail, or the Toronto star, all of which have covered xc sking to some degree leading up to and during the Olympics.

    Another thought: Legkov went a week between events during the Olympics. CBC broadcast said it was due to team politics (he was pulled from races in favor of others they said) – but this now seems suspicious to me. The Austrian caught doping went home for several days between events as well, and was caught in a test administered over that period.

    Final Q: Is there, or is there not a biological passport system for xc skiers?

    Thanks.

  48. Tim Kelley says:

    Russians will always be out to beat the system. I don’t mean this derogatorily. But just read Russian history. They have always had to beat the system just to survive. Such a cultural tradition will not die. Now take the fact that almost 50% of Russia’s GNP is economic activity with mafia and black market connections, and add in the fact that corruption is the norm in that country, and you can guarantee the Russians won’t give up on doping in our lifetimes.

    Based on the history of Russia, I understand why Russians are always out to beat the system. But I don’t get what the deal is with Austrians and doping. Why do Austrians keep making trips to the candy store?

  49. @JimGalanes: I wasn’t suggesting that people cannot voice their opinions, I was trying to make a point. I find it crazy that it is up to the accused, in this case of cheating, to prove that they haven’t been when the one making the accusation has no proof other than their opinions.

    You may feel that Justin Wadsworth is an expert and that it gives him the right (as he himself feels) to accuse, or in the very least insinuate, an athlete of doping without any evidence to support his claim, and you are free to do so. Just as I am free to disagree and while respecting his opinion I’m going to need a little more than “what I saw at the top of the hill” to be convinced.

  50. Here are some of the lap splits on leg 3, that I tried to pull from the tape feed. Hopefully, I overcame excel:
    Mid Final Lap1 Mid Final Lap2 Mid Final Lap3
    Olsson: 03:24.5 03:21.2 06:45.7 03:37.2 03:29.2 07:06.4 03:40.6 03:27.7 07:08.3
    Legkov: 03:23.7 03:24.8 06:48.5 03:35.5 03:20.7 06:56.2 03:28.6 03:20.1 06:48.7
    Duvillard: 03:23.0 03:22.5 06:45.5 03:39.6 03:28.5 07:08.1 03:37.9 03:23.9 07:01.8
    Sundby: N/A N/A 06:31.8 03:32.7 03:19.6 06:52.3 03:43.6 03:49.1 07:32.7

  51. Strider2 and Sven,
    I am not sure there is reason to suspect the Swedes. While nobody “actually” knows for sure the evidence isn’t very solid. Johan Olsson is 33, and a distance specialist (not exactly a favorite in a sprint finish). Look at his results from the last 2 Olympics in both the Skiathlon, individual 15k and the 50k, there’s no reason to doubt he could perform, and given his age and years of training, its not impossible for him to have this kind of performance. Georgio Dicenta anyone? That is suspicious if you ask me. Additionally, how many Swedes were at the Tour this year? Kalla, Hellner, Rickardsson, Olsson, Jönsson and Peterson all skipped the tour (and the World Cup directly after I think). They stayed home and trained. Not only this, but all 6 of them had plenty of top-10s in the World Cup this year with the exception of Olsson who missed WC’s due to illness and Jönsson with injuries. In contrast, look at how many Norwegians were at the Tour? Sundby, Northug, Jespersen, Gjerdalen, Johaug, Bjoergen, Weng, Jacobsen etc… and then they also competed at Norwegian Nationals and the Toblach World Cups. It isn’t a stretch to say that they were perhaps just a little tuckered out in addition to not nailing the wax…Very small margins for error at this level. Also, the Olympic quota is so damn competitive in Norway that I think they have to be in better shape earlier in the season to make the team, whereas the Swedes don’t have the same depth so its probably not quite as stressful for their top skiers.

    So I just think the Swedes nailed their peak, the wax, and also didn’t have a death deeply affecting the team, nor did they have so much pressure from the media getting in their face after every race amid the high expectations. I think Tim Kelley said it best with regards to Russia’s sports culture and history of systematic doping, that its a fair assessment to raise an eyebrow.

  52. Oops I goofed on the TDS standings, Rickardsson did compete but don’t forget it isn’t exactly his forte, so a top-10 placing (especially given the amount of sprint / shorter distance races) wasn’t really expected… and his best results of the Olympics came in the Skiathlon (30k) individual 15k classic, and the 50k so I don’t find his or the Swedes placing at the Olympics questionable at all. Nor do I think the Norwegians should be questioned either, as I think the public humiliation of being caught for doping would be enough of a deterrent. Just my 2 cents.

  53. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    Tim, good point on the history. And also think of Americans in cycling, boxing, athletics and America’s so-called “football.” I think it must be their “Wild West” history and “rugged individualism” that leads to disdain for rules. And when we look at the current USeconomy, with what is fundamentally legalized corruption by major economic institutions, it doesn’t surprise me that the American approach to doping is “Go big.” I can think of storylines for other countries/cultures too if you’re interested.

  54. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Ok, for argument, let’s say Harvey or Northrug, for example, won the gold in the 50km? How would we not suspect him of doping, given he would be beating supposed dopers to do it, and was not a consistent podium finisher going in? We can only rely on testing available it seems, and hope they make bio passport on World Cup the norm.
    Also, with today’s wax, structure tech., and skate skis, 50km on a super tough course, coming in under 2 hours hardly seems like a marathon any more,and more like a 30km classic from the 1970′s. Time to add 5km to that race ( same with women), so we have something close to a running marathon.

  55. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    To build upon that epokeedsbyn, I think testing results are key, but I also build suspicion on history of a particular athlete or team/program (and coaches). Austrian nordic skiing: suspicious. They’ve had so many positives. Skiers under Wasdsworth: much less so – no positives that I know of and his wife was outspoken anti-doping for years. Kowalcyzk: suspicious based on past positives. Skiers who went training a lot with Mühlegg (such as, IIRC, Belmondo): suspicious.

    There are performances that shock me – in cycling Pantani’s are an example, and the whole US Postal Service team in the Tour of France. In this Olympics, I thought Cologna’s comeback was over-the-top. But I know that my feelings about the latter is a gut feeling that I really probably shouldn’t share. I’m not close enough to the sport to really know. Oh, and I’ve been in races with dopers in cycling (including, it turns out, one of the biggest of all time). Some I thought were doping, and some surprised me. I really don’t agree with claiming to be able to spot doping by performance, even if many of us do it.

  56. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Yeah, I remember reading about some guy in NYC area last year who was like a cat.3/2 bike racer, maybe even only a Master cat. 2/3,who was caught doping purely out of ego, with no financial gain, Pretty sad, what a douche. That guy must be a real treat to be married to or do business with.
    I dont remember the Swiss program being wrapped up in doping recently, so why would you suspect Cologna, and not, say, Kalla’s relay surge? That was my point, where do you draw the line on a really stellar result these days, and not just guilt by association of the traditional suspects of Finns, Russians, Italians, Austrians (we are talking skiing here, if cycling, we would have to throw in Americans)

  57. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    I’m not sure I raced against the guy you are talking about, though it’s likely we were in some training races together – he started doping as a 4 or 5 and continued doping until he became a 2, at which point he got caught. He was a master also.

    I was referring both to guys like Armstrong, Hincapie, Hamilton, plus lots of guys on somewhat dirty US-based pro teams in the 90s and also more recently to local pros and cat 1 and 2 guys who got popped by testing.

    I suspect Cologna because he was out so much with injury and then reappeared at top form. But really, that’s in line with your point – it’s not good to speculate based on performance.

  58. John Forrest Tomlinson says:

    One other thing – “performance-based” spotting of doping is so easy in hindsight after people are caught or confess. I mean that seriously – looking back on some stuff in US p-1-2 bike racing in the 1990s, it all seems obvious now, but I and many people at the time were fairly clueless.

    Pointing it out when it’s not supported by other evidence is tougher – it takes a combination of balls and deep inside experience (Wadsworth) or just recklessness and hot air (most of the rest of us, including me).

  59. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Yeah, just watching that 50k on TV, Russians did look all that amazingly dominant, like solo break and win by a couple of minutes. It came down to a 3-up sprint, and a bunch of guys were inside 30 seconds, and dozens inside of 1:30, so, time wise, not some obvious show of amazing power, but how can ya really ever know?

  60. Watch my Dad and me after reading all these amazing and incredible comments!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJETB-MfpnQ

  61. Amos you are the king of commentistan

  62. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Damn Cutters….

  63. campirecord says:

    Here’s a good read on the realities of dopers:

    http://pvcycling.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/doped/

    http://pvcycling.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/saved-by-a-shitty-lawyer/?relatedposts_exclude=9435

    Then you also get clowns like that:

    http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Vancouver+cyclist+suspended+years+doping+violation/9408511/story.html

    Its so easy to dope, unreal how easy it is. And no there is no biological passport for xc skiing, way to damn expensive.

  64. mcmsnowmaster says:

    Thank you Justin for having the balls to come out and say what many of us were thinking. I used to be naive about this and think everybody was clean until they tested positive. Then I had a discussion with a retired member of the Canadian Olympic committee who told me stories that made me cringe. There is way too much money involved in Olympic medals, it’s big business people, millions of dollars in government support and corporate sponsorship. The fact that FIS doesn’t have biological passports is embarrassing. Keep raising the questions Justin, you have a lot of support!

  65. Sorry, I don’t see the value of making the comment without actual proof. What good does Mr. Wadsworth’s comments provide him, Canadian Skiing, or World FIS Skiing?

    I see first slander and now libel, on the part of Mr. Wadsworth, under Canadian law. Mr. Legkov has no need to further prove his innocence. Until Mr. Legkov fails a blood test or actual legitimate proof is provided, rather than “trained observation”, Mr. Wadsworth comments are defamation.

    There is a difference between suspicion and defamation. Yes, all results are suspicious. I reviewed the splits of leg 3 expecting to see an obvious time difference/performance gap of Mr. Legkov versus those in leg 3 of the relay after reading Mr. Wadsworth’s comments. Reviewing splits I saw no such gap. Lap one Legkov was slower than Misters Sundby, Duvillard, and Olsson. Lap 2 he was slower than Mr. Sundby. On lap three he was the fastest, but his final lap time was in-line with that of his first lap and still slower than other athletes best one lap performance. Based on review of splits, It appears that Mr. Legkov held the most even splits.
    For Mr Wadsworth, it reminds me of the Finnish rower, Pertti Karppinen. Mr. Karppinen was considered to have an amazing finish, but in reality, after reviewing rowing splits, his competition would slow significantly in finishes giving the incorrect impression of Mr. Karppinen of increasing speeds.

    Would someone care to enlighten me as to how Mr. Wadswoth’s comments are a benefit to himself, Canadian skiing, or world skiing? Does it just serve to remind the general public that all results need to be questioned?

  66. For what it is worth, please remember that Lance Armstrong had won an expensive defamation case against a UK newspaper that was only reversed in settlement after Armstrong was busted. UK & Canadian defamation laws are similar. US Courts hold defamation differently.

    Also, I think that one making verbal statements outside of Canada are harder to bring civil suit of defamation in Canadian courts. Logging on to websites, though, are clear cut libel. I have heard of many examples of libel cases being won in the UK for comments posted on sites like these. Just be careful.

  67. 1. I’m pretty sure Americans have said some pretty slanderous things about Russians in the past month that would go way above anything Wadsworth opined.

    B. How are splits even relevant in a mass start race where everybody is in a pack together for 48 k?

    and 3. Wadsworth has no malice toward Russia (gave homeboy a fresh ski to preserve his dignity in the sprint).

  68. Duende how can you be libel in Canada for something you do in Russia or another country? Thats sounds silly.

  69. Lars, regarding jurisdiction.I was referring to comment 37 specifically. May or may not be JW.
    Fasterskier.com could be in jurisdiction. Also, If you log into a computer in Canada to post comments I am pretty certain that you are in jurisdiction, as you are viewed as a publisher by Canadian courts. Regarding comments made in Sochi, I was saying that I thought those comments would not be considered in jurisdiction for Canadian courts. Anyway, I doubt that these comments would cause any type of lawsuit.

  70. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    Not sure how that foreign legal stuff works, but don’t you have to prove real financial damage in order to prevail in a UK libel case, or do they award money just when there was libel with no financial damage? Would be hard for Legov to prove he will suffer financially from Implications posted here I would think.

  71. Duende, I think you are missing the big picture regarding Wadsworth’s comments. “Innocent until proven guilty” has no rational application in xc ski racing. Unlike the judicial systems in many countries, there is no way to prove innocence or guilt in xc skiing. Proof is Austrian xc skier Durr, a guy that “proved innocent” 14 times in a row, even though he admits EPO doping guilt during the entire timeframe of the tests. With doping tests being a pathetic joke. people like Wadsworth, and others that have the balls to speak up, are the only reality checks in the sport of xc ski racing. So, we should be thankful for Wadsworth speaking out. And not whining because he said something that a few people might consider politically incorrect. Political correctness in this case is pointless, as xc ski racing these days is quite ethically incorrect, and likely will be forever.

  72. theterribleone says:

    I’ve followed endurance sports for a long time and I feel Justin is right and fair play to you for saying how it is. I think there were a lot of suspicious performances at the games and to think otherwise is a little naive. Cologna who had a serious ankle injury disappears for a couple of months before the games and then comes back and wins two golds fairly easily, I think that stinks and hasn’t been questioned enough. The Russians have been cheating, xenon huffing improves EPO production massively, research on mice show 160% improvement in natural EPO production! This improvement, in an international field is a massive gain and Legkov’s jump skiing up the final climb and how incredible easy he looked the whole time, Justin’s observations (are some of you forgetting he is a world class skier with incredible credentials?) help reinforce that. The gains and success you get from doping are worth the risk, these guys in Russia were already heroes due to a good showing over the years, but now they’ll be revered and cast in history as champions. Xenon isn’t on the banned list and I don’t know how viable the test is for it but I think it’s one of these that sneaks under the radar by improving a natural delivery system in the body. They should let all sports have a ‘unlimited’ category where if you want to dope to the point of ridiculousness and shorten your life by 25 years for the sake of glory, go for it. Anyone who watched cycling in the 90′s would attest it makes for spectacular viewing.

    I think a lot of athletes are willing to take whatever to win. Goldman’s dilemma proves this. Especially when Putin, your president at your home games says, “we’re all counting on you”. Unfortunately Russians aren’t adverse to breaking the rules and the last ten years of their sporting history shows this. I didn’t know about their coach before reading it on the comments here but it’s interesting that she was racing in an era where doping was rife and I agree, she probably has the age old adage of “it’s not cheating if everyone is doing it”. You only need to look at Johannes Duerr who self administered EPO (although I imagine he was given professional guidance) and didn’t fail a test all season. Testing procedures are very weak. Testing itself is very expensive and do you think the Russians would want all their medals to be questioned? They need to be seen to be powerhouses for the benefit of the government, president, morale of the people and ideologies that ‘Russia is best’. It harks back to the cold war, but this is an sporting display of power. Same with Britain in London 2012.

    I’ve followed cycling for almost my entire adult life and it makes me laugh. Yes, the peloton is SIGNIFICANTLY cleaner than once upon a time but totally clean? No. Of course not. Look at Chris Froome, riding up Ventoux whilst breathing through his nose. Yes, equipment has come on, yes training and diets are now a big part of it but a team with Sky’s budget, backing and power, why is it unthinkable that they don’t have some incredible, undetectable, possible gene orientated doping program? Now move that example to a nation who have a history of doping and a limitless budget and then what? Performances bordering on super human. I think China are ahead of the curve on this and its a throwback to the East German regimes. There are reports of doctors finding solutions to various ailments and coaches coming in asking how much it is and if it’s detectable etc. Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s everywhere. Athletics. US women break the East German DEFINITELY ENHANCED and long standing 4x100m world record at London 2012, no one questions it. Mo Farah therapeutic use exemptions list is apparently almost four pages long. The Kenyan track team have literally just installed an anti doping scheme and some athletes have gone on record as saying they’ve been enhancing for years. Same with Jamaica. In Spain at the recent Operation Puerto trial the blood bags obtained belong to tennis and ‘soccer’ players as well as numerous cyclists and track athletes. This is where cycling gets a bad rap. A lot of the cyclists have been named but the court ruled against naming the soccer, athletic and tennis stars and ordered for the blood bags to be destroyed. Why? Because if the world found out Barcelona with Messi etc, Real Madrid, Rafa Nadal and past Spanish track heroes were doping it would destroy the nation and put every sporting achievement into doubt, doped or not and it is upto the federations, sporting bodies, governments to make sure this never happens. This applies widely across the spectrum of sports and whilst there are medical advances continuing to be made, it will remain. The reward outweighs the risk.

  73. Tim Kelley wrote: “Russians will always be out to beat the system. I don’t mean this derogatorily. But just read Russian history. They have always had to beat the system just to survive. Such a cultural tradition will not die. Now take the fact that almost 50% of Russia’s GNP is economic activity with mafia and black market connections, and add in the fact that corruption is the norm in that country, and you can guarantee the Russians won’t give up on doping in our lifetimes.”

    Unfortunately, it would not be difficult to find sectors of the economy of any country that aren’t sgueaky clean. Tim, our country is certainly not immune to corruption either, just look at the financial services sector. Isn’t one of our favorite sayings in this country “all’s fair in love and war”? Black market economy, mafia connections…all that is active in the US too.

  74. By the way Tim, I’m not trying to pick on you. I just think that if Wadsworth or anybody else is going to accuse the medal winners of doping there is equal evidence, to me, based on their past race histories, that their performances in these games were not out of line with what we should have expected. Then of course you have to start looking at other results deeper in the field and be suspicious. Niskanen for example, and I’m not accusing him of anything, but he’s ranked outside the top 50 in the WC distance and his best WC result before this season was a 32nd…then he comes to Sochi and not only competes in every race but wins a gold in team sprint and finishes 10th in the 50k. That kind of out of nowhere result at the senior level is not something you see too often. About the only guy in the 50k that I have zero suspicion of is Wenlong Xu. I didn’t see any evidence that Legkov’s result was above and beyond what he’s done in the past to an appreciable degree. But I wasn’t there to see it in person like Wadsworth was and I haven’t been around the World Cup to be able to form an opinion with the background he has.

    Personally, after so many years of reading about how our professional athletes in skiing, cycling, running, etc are using PEDs to get where they do, my instinct is to believe that everyone at that level is doing something. Sad.

  75. teamepokeedsbyn says:

    How could a guy in his mid 50′s go on 10 hour back country crust skis, day after day, and not be doping? I’ll bet you can buy xenon gas and EPO at the local packy store in AK.

  76. Tim Kelley says:

    TeamEpoke – I bet a 100 oz Camelback full of Xenon gas would be a lot lighter and more effective than 100 oz of water. Thanks for the idea. I’m off the the local packy store now! And thanks to the rest of the posters on this thread. It’s good to see FS come to life now and then and see the opinions fly. Cheers …

  77. I’ve been rooting for Legkov for a long time, and hoping hoping hoping that the guy is clean. The allegation that his performance at Sochi was unusual is pretty surprising. The dude has put up plenty of results to prove that he’s able to pull one out like this. Tour De Ski comes to mind.

    This is why doping sucks. You FINALLY break through with a major and, hopefully, well deserved victory an all of a sudden everybody thinks you might’ve cheated. Note that I used hopefully here as I too am guilty of this bias.

    Imagine if you will a norwegian coach commenting, after the Oslo world championships, that defeating Northug/Hattestad in team sprint is unheard of, not possible, and therefore suspicious. How would we all be feeling about that? I feel sorry for Legkov at this point.

  78. mcmsnowmaster says:

    Thanks theterribleone for your post, I enjoyed reading that.
    I think the biggest “Surprise” of the whole race was 40 year old Belarus athlete Sergei DOLIDOVICH who placed 5th overall.
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! Look at his world cup results this year. Some solid 94th, 76th placings. Check it out. http://www.fis-ski.com/cross-country/athletes/athlete=dolidovich-sergei-13946/

    Guys like this make a mockery of the sport. We NEED guys like Justin Wadsworth asking the questions or eventually any athlete who doesn’t want to dope will find a different sport.

  79. runswithjackels says:

    Very revealing quote today on cyclingnews.com:

    “However the matter remains ambiguous to some, Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency, stated that there was “nothing wrong” if the Russian team used the drug. “We use what is not illegal, is not destructive and does not have side effects,” he added.”

    Sounds like Ferrari in the ’90s. Is this finally the Festina affair that nordic skiing has needed for years?

    Link to the full article: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/xenon-gas-should-be-banned-says-garmin-sharp-doctor

  80. thehoneybadger says:

    Thank you Justin and Beckie for continuing to fight the good fight.

    I remember how you told me in Sun Valley the week before SLC 2002 that “Muhlegg was the dirtiest skier on the planet”. I remember how much this upset you knowing this dirtbag was going to race and probably win medals and get away with it. I remember how mad you were that he was dodging the testers in Sun Valley, too. And I remember the sheer joy and relief (driving home from Team Canada party – whoohooo!) when it was announced that Muhlegg and the Russians were busted. I remember how over dinner in Bend in 2001, you told me that if we didn’t believe the US Postal guys weret doping, than we were naïve idiots (uh okay, I was)

    Where there is smoke, there is fire. And you and Beckie were always the ones to speak out, and history has proved you right time and time again… despite idiots like Dick Pound, despite the haters who think this is some stupid nationalistic medal count crap, despite those who think this is sour grapes over a not great performance in Sochi.

    Now pass me some Xenon cause I gotta go ride Bogus.

    SM

  81. Erik_hendrickson says:

    For those of you who say they need more proof of Russian doping have a look at this video where they are quite open about xenon use. I’m not saying that it is doping but is definitely seems “unnatural” to use Justin’s word. Start at 17:20. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=l98ENa9tLws

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