The winners of the individual and relay races at the World Cup in Beitostolen last weekend were not subjected to doping tests, according to FIS Anti-Doping Administrator Sarah Fussek.
In a telephone interview with FasterSkier, Fussek said that FIS rules required targeted testing of podium finishers only at certain international events selected by the Federation-not at all of them.
This has been the case since last year. “We’re not conducting doping controls at every competition,” Fussek said. “We have some in competition events, but not all of them.” She would not say how many events would be tested this year.
Both in-competition and out-of-competition testing are important for catching potential cheaters. Out-of-competition testing discourages athletes from using performance-enhancing drugs during the spring, summer, and fall, which would allow them to recover faster and train at higher intensities. In-competition testing is designed to catch skiers who might be trying to boost their performance in a particular race.
But according to Marty Hall, a former head coach of the Canadian and American national teams, testing at the first World Cup event is crucial, because many athletes have been training outside of their home countries for the last few weeks. This makes it much harder for officials to track them down for out-of-competition testing. (Out-of-competition testing is usually conducted by national governing bodies on their own athletes.)
The latest banned substances, Hall added, move through the body very quickly. By not subjecting the winners of the Beitostolen races to doping controls, FIS may have missed an opportunity.
“I’m appalled, with this being the first event,” he said. “For them not to test the first race is out of the question.”
FIS’s policies have come under scrutiny in the last week, as a number of national team coaches met in Beitostolen on Friday to discuss how to catch Russians who may be cheating, according to an article by the Canadian Press.
In the article, Canadian Head Coach David Wood complained that the Russians were not being subjected to out-of-competition testing. “It’s discouraging,” he said, “because our people are being tested two or three times a month…you go outside of the country and people are doing nothing.”
In August, news broke that three Russian skiers had tested positive for EPO. And during last year’s biathlon World Championships in Korea, three other Russian athletes were also suspended for doping.
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.