NewsHemoglobin Exceptions Granted to German Skiers

FasterSkierOctober 4, 2007

This ski season, two German skiers, Jens Filbrich (World Championships 2007: 3rd in 50k CL) and Franz Göring (World Championships 2007: 7th in 15k F) received blood-certificates based on their genetically high blood values.

The highest hemoglobin values allowed by FIS are 16g/dl and 17g/dl for women and men, respectively. If athletes are able to prove their normally high values, they may be granted a blood-certificate by FIS. This certificate allows Filbrich and Göring to compete with values up to 17.5 g/dl. For Filbrich, however, this rule is only valid for races held at or above 1000 meters.

There was no application filed for Evi Sachenbacher, another German skier, because FIS rejected a similar request last year with the reasoning of not having enough evidence. Sachenbacher’s team doctor (Dr. Bernd Wolfarth) explained that Evi’s situation was still the same. Her hemoglobin values are subject to major fluctuation. Dr. Wolfarth also pointed out that hemoglobin values are controversial. First of all, various federations set different standards. Secondly, the case of Sachenbacher cannot be fully explained. In the future, there might be individualized hemoglobin values for each athlete.

It is extremely difficult to secure FIS blood-level exemptions. Athletes requesting an exemption must submit a comprehensive history of blood levels – the further back the better, including childhood records, documentation of family members with high blood levels, and a full report by a hematologist. FIS will consider the submitted information, but there is no guarantee. Athletes who are close to the limit or occasionally above will not be granted an exemption. Athletes must show that they are consistently above the normal allowable level, and have been historically. Such is the case with Evi Sachenbacher, whose levels fluctuate significantly.

At the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, over a dozen athletes were prevented from starting due to high hemoglobin levels. FIS states that such action is not a sanction, no positive drug test is involved and that the start ban is for the athletes' safety. US skiers Kikkan Randall and Leif Zimmerman were two of those prevented from starting for a five day period.

US Ski Team Head Coach Pete Vordenberg recently told FasterSkier.com that the US Ski Team has instituted a rigorous testing and monitoring program to ensure that athletes are safely within FIS limits. This includes daily testing at camps and leading up to major competitions.

Hemoglobin levels are a controversial method for attempting to determine if an athlete is doping. Just the fact that some athletes are given exemptions demonstrates that there are both significant variations in levels between athletes and subjective decision making by the FIS.

Related on FasterSkier.com:
Randall, Zimmerman & Crooks Prohibited From Olympic Starts Due To Hemoglobin Values

Contributing Source: www.ski-xc.de – Langlauf

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