Russian Skier Detained at Swiss Border; Faces Two-Year Ban

Nathaniel HerzSeptember 10, 201023
Nikolai Pankratov racing in the 2008 Tour de Ski. Photo, Petr Novák, Wikipedia.

Russian cross-country skier Nikolai Pankratov faces a two-year ban from competition after being caught with intravenous equipment and 22 vials of actovegin, a drug derived from calf’s blood.

Pankratov, who is not on Russian national team, had spent time training in Norway in August. He was detained at the Swiss border on Monday, according to a report by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Actovegin is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) prohibited substance list. But the director of the Russian Winter Sport Association, Sergei Korolev, told RIA Novosti that Pankratov’s possession of the drug in tandem with the intravenous equipment was grounds for a sanction—unless he could prove that he had a legitimate reason to use it.

According to the RIA Novosti report, Pankratov’s case now will go before the International Ski Federation’s (FIS’s) anti-doping panel.

“He could theoretically face a two-year disqualification,” Korolev said. “If it is proven that he took the drug for health reasons, he may escape punishment, but the probability of this is very small.”

Actovegin has been on the radar of anti-doping officials for over a decade. Some experts say it can be used to increase the effectiveness of blood doping, as well as to speed recovery from injuries, although others are more skeptical about its potential benefits. Its use is illegal in the United States.

While WADA has not banned Actovegin—even ignoring requests to do so by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2009—officials from the organization told the New York Times last year that they do monitor the drug closely.

Pankratov’s situation is big news for Russian skiing—its national association is already under close scrutiny by FIS, which slapped the Russians with a $154,000 fine earlier this year for a string of doping violations.

In addition to the fine, FIS made a series of recommendations to the Russians with regards to the country’s anti-doping work, threatening further sanctions if they were not followed.

While the 27-year-old Pankratov is not on the Russian national team, he has been a member in the past. A proven veteran, he has raced 98 World Cups over the course of his career—including 10 podium finishes.

Pankratov also competed in the 30 k pursuit and the relay at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, and he owns two relay medals from the World Ski Championships.

Nathaniel Herz

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.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  • SickterScale

    September 11, 2010 at 1:23 am

    At this point I would be more surprised by a story about Swiss border guards stopping a russian skier and NOT finding any doping materials on their person…

  • Cloxxki

    September 11, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Well, they need to try it in their own way.
    Russians can’t follow the European approach, just go live in Spain where athletes are protected from witchhunting vampires.
    Maybe not as popular among skiers, but it works well for cyclists and track athletes, now that Austria is getting a bit uncomfortable that way.

  • Mike Trecker

    September 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Get all his sweet Madshus gear back and give it to somebody else that is deserving! When are we going to have a new game at World Cups… Dog Pile on the dope cheats! We need some good old fashioned Mob Mentality. I hate these jerks.

    Just in the last two days, Roy Sentjens, a Belgian on the Milram team, was busted for EPO in an out of competition test. His quote immediately following: “I don’t understand what is going on. I know everyone says this, but I’m really innocent,” he told Het Belang van Limburg. “I am perplexed.”, then today he says… “I wanted a contract. I have a son, a new house, a car and I wanted to start a new life” he said. “I made a mistake. In a instant, I just stepped into my car, drove to Barcelona and parked in the city centre. I went was ready to go around the pharmacies where I might find EPO. At the second one, I had what I needed.”

    Oh these poor, poor athletes falling into depression because they can’t get results. Oh woe is me. Reparations, we need accountability and repair for the damage done, not just crying in your spilled EPO. Lifetime bans as well, although harsh, it seems like the only deterrent.

    These punks sound like Bernie Madoff whining about his treatment after stealing millions! Dope cheats are common criminals and should be treated as such. Doping is cheating, cheating is stealing, theft is a jail-able offense Fletch.

  • trski

    September 11, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Totally hear you on the drug use in skiing and cycling but unfortunately the two almost go hand and hand in these sports. You have young guys/girls eager to succeed in sports that do not pay well at all. One result in a Paris Roubaix or a World Cup XC event paves the way to sponsorship and bene’s. This is a huge incentive for someone to try it. Otherwise you potentially languish at the back of the group toting bidons as you contract hop to the next best opportunity. It is sad that it is that way. I am not condoning usage at all but in the article it says this drug is NOT banned. Sure, his possession would raise a flag but it seems a bit harsh to come in so heavy handed when the Russians don’t have any evidence he doped. My point is .. where is the evidence … the smoking gun. None. Time to either ban the drug or let him go.

  • kris freeman

    September 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

    The use of intravenous equipment is not permitted by WADA. Pankratov is in violation regardless of what drug he was taking with it.

  • Cloxxki

    September 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    If it’s true what Sentjens says, well it’s true.
    If not, he’s likely been using blood doping for years like most of the others, and microdosing EPO only to boost his new blood cell count enough to be able to get away with a pint of extra blood for big races.

    You need to all support the Landis whistleblower as well as FDA investigations into Amstrong & Co. If he goes to jail, this will cause a stir in world sports. People will open their eyes,a nd see the evil of cheating, which cannot even be hidden from the public with a noisy charity exploiting an already well-funded disease and it’s hope-seeking patients.

  • prairiekid

    September 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Cloxxki, I am all for as much anti doping control as the next clean guy, but I think it is time to leave Armstrong alone. Put the time, money and effort in catching those that are out there cheating right now. Armstrong has done great things with his success, and have given many people someone to look up to as both an athlete and cancer survivor.

    The reason I say this is because what is to be gained by trying to catch him so many years later, I think more is to be gained by catching those on the start list today.

  • highstream

    September 12, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Lifetime bans will sure stop doping, just like the use of the death penalty in Texas has stopped murders. There’s a catch-22: the athlete who turns to doping out of desperation is already effectively banned from winning per non-doping means. Remember, for an athlete it’s all about winning.

    I don’t like the government going after Armstrong or any athlete not only because it typically does so by using some form of legal entrapment – via grand jury or Congressional testimony, or “misuse” of funds – but mostly because I believe the matter of doping – rules, testing, enforcement, etc. – should be in the hands of the athletes and coaches, and players unions where they exist. Government officials such as politicians and prosecutors are interested in controlling and regimenting the population, and drugs from social (“recreational”) to the truly recreational have been one of their main targets in this cycle of repression since the early days of the Reagan Administration.

  • Cloxxki

    September 12, 2010 at 2:35 am

    About the Russians, sure they are a pest. They are like the Spanish, doping is rather encouraged than discouraged. Still, it comes across as pretty amateurist. European cyclists don’t get caught with IV’s at the border anymore. Russian skiers are still not super weathly superstars like cyclists or NBA players. They do what they’re told, I’m afraid, that’s also more part of their culture. The system they are part of, should be more strictly monitored by WADA, and getting caught racing abroad should end a skiing career much sooner, say at their first world cup, greatly discouraging doping. It must be clear, that the odds are actually worse to make a buck skiing on dope, than clean. Apparently this point has not been reached yet.

    With the holy Americans, from various sports, now being unmasked as cheats, some even being jailed for lying to the feds about it, perhaps we should brace ourselves for other so-called clean countries to be exposed as systematic cheats. The world as we know it, may not actually be what we think it is. The Scandinavians may have a trick even the cyclists don’t know yet. We still don’t know how the Chinese won all those medals in all kinds of sports for a brief moment in history, various WR’s still stand.
    The chance of being caught, is still probably just a single digit percentile, over many years of cheating. For every cheat we read about, there are many, many more quietly doing their thing.

    There will never be a time to let cheaters, let alone federal frauds, alone. Armstrong’s cancer work is but a cover, a way to get at the diner table with the influential of this world. He bought the UCI for crying out loud, look at it. There are few crimes greater than that. He could have been like the others, and just dope and frequently lose races to other dopers. He had to be the greatest doper of all time, and will soon be known as the largest fraud of all time. Including the charity work. On the balance, he may well have done cancer a great disservice over a good decade of Comeback 1.0+2.0.

    Both the investigations against him, are about fraud against the USA, perjury, etc, not about doping in itself. Doping in the US is not a crime after all, and your crimes are all comited overseas (gotta love to be a pro athlete there). They are looking to get money BACK from him, not investing $$ resources in trying to trick him on possible pot possession or something. That rap is the best his top lawyer can come up with for a public statement.

    Had he not doped, he’d not BE a multi-million$ fraudeur. You can’t accept millions from USPS and be dishonest about the terms of the contract (doing it clean). Going under oath stating you always rode clean, to get $5mln from some insurance trick. Going out of your way to launch tv commercials connecting your cleanness to your charity work, to get yet more sponsorship.

    Ask some people who run cancer charities, well respected ones, about what Lance has done for cancer. And is it through or .org? He made lots and lots of noise, but is running an inefficient charity, way down the list due to “overhead costs”, depite the thousands of volunteers.
    It pretty much comes doesn to “awareness”. Like, who’s not aware of cancer yet? Try to not see an awareness campaign of some sort, every single day. It’s “Lance-does-good-awareness” he’s preaching mostly. Millions of people, especially those whose families are being ripped apart by cancer, are buying the propaganda.

    You’ll have to uncover the main drugs baron if you want no more junkies hanging on your door step. Even if the baron is putting his money and name to the local orphanage, and chatting up to the local and global politicians.
    Even the pope will not be allowed to commit crimes against anyone. And Lance only believes in himself. Truth will catch up with him. I feel sorry for his kids, I honestly do. They’re not looking at a chance of growing up normally.

  • Big Joe

    September 13, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Well done Cloxxki. As “deepthroat” said – follow the money. Fraud is fraud whether it plays out on the champs elysees or wall street. And both should be taken seriously and perpetrators punished when they are caught.

  • nordic_dave

    September 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Cloxxxki: Lets see didn’t this guy state that Greenland at one time was named Greenland because it was full of tree’s? OY!

  • Cloxxki

    September 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    That’s what Armstrong uses on Landis too. “He was wrong once, and even admits it! Now, who do you believe, the 7-time TdF winner and cancer champion, or the convicted lying doper?”.

    You know the guy preaching in the street? Sometimes it’s not all rubbish he’s trying to tell you.

    You guys give me way too much credit even remembering I posted here before.
    Y’all are the most uptight, unfriendly and outright most personal-insulting crowd I’ve ever found. Keep this up, you’ll keep your sport small, and you’ll be able to call yourself the elite. The positive exeptions to my gross generalization, you know who you are, and you rock.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    September 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Compared to recruitment, doping is a non-issue.

    The real issue, in my opinion, is not if some participants cheat…they have in this sport for decades, and will continue to do so (including US athletes). Same as other endurance sports and many team sports. No surprise there. Athletes want to win, and athletes, like all of us, seek to maximize results and resulting income when possible…without either, the sport is boring and not worth being a fan. Yeah, to the other participants, the cheaters are douche bags and worthy of a good beating.

    No, the problem with x-c ski racing, in the US, and worldwide, is poor packaging, and the resulting lack of recruitment and hence lack of interst and industry money. This is evident in north america as this sport essentialy only followed by those who have parents interested in the sport and/or those who are of elite financial means. This results is an extremely limited gene pool from which to choose our elite athletes. So sad, as there are insane “sprint” and endurance athletes out there, but, under current direction, they will likley never take up the sport of x-c skiing, and more likley to pursure football, track, cycling, running, etc.

    Any money for “development” should be put to programs seeking to get kids who would not have tried the sport ‘but for”. Using money to fund a kid from Aspen, CO or the child of an attorney from Vermont is a poor use of limited developmet funds in my opinion.

    Bill Koch Leagues are great for the kids who are lucky enough to live near ski areas, but what about funding the bussing in of “other” kids and their parents, paying for lodging for a weekend at a time, and providing them with race worthy gear? And, if they show promise, scholarships to ski academies?

    Concentrate on packaging the sport better, and recruitment of kids who would not have participated in the sport/industry “but for” such an effort/program, and the doping and crazy-good althletes search will take care of themselves.

  • nordic_dave

    September 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Cloxxxki: But you did say it about Greenland as it relates to global warming right? And more than once. I was truly amazed!

    You seem to go nuts on one thing and one thing only, cycling.
    Everything compares to cycling to you, yawn, very boring.
    We be skiers here, get hip to that, maybe learn something.

    Ahh yes then you got preachy and ironically used “holy American’s”as a stereotype. Well Cloxxxki, let me be the first to stand up and cheer for the Dutch when they don’t play like cheap shot hackers in the World Cup final like they did against who? Aah yes those dastardly Spanish! Those other people you love to hate.

  • Mike Trecker

    September 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    America’s youth consistently get a good, well rounded exposure to a variety of sports. Those best suited to the explosive team sports choose them, and those best suited for endurance choose accordingly. I see kids continually choose a sport that feels good and fits well, not pays well. I continually see skiers choose skiing over cycling and running even though those sports offer a better chance of long term success. Cross country skiing is getting it’s fair share of freakish athletes. Recruitment is not that big of a deal. And those Aspen kids you speak of, they are the real deal whether you want to buy in or not.

    My recruitment problem is changing. I’m ready to actively DIS-courage young skiers from pursuing anything past college. Olympic and professional sports are dirty business, unless one is prepared to cheat, the athlete is preparing to fail. However it is still possible to be competitive in college and pay for an education through one’s talent and hard work. Sporting glory is fleeting, but talent, education and vocation are for life. Somebody tell my why I should encourage young athletes to go pro, how will that be good for them other than the fact that they’re entertaining me and I’ll cheer my approval?


    September 24, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I must disagree with much of the pessimism expressed in these comments…the US Nordic Combined team used CLEAN strategies that allowed them to medal in 2010. A combination of long-term goals, top notch coaching, up-t0-date science guiding their (residence-based) training, and mostly a classy group of hard-working guys can achieve success without risking their health and reputation.

  • Mike Trecker

    September 27, 2010 at 8:02 am

    It’s dirty business nonetheless, one of America’s most famous doping skiers was a Nordic Combined World Champion, who was encouraged to dope by our own National team administrators. Dirty business.

  • davord

    September 28, 2010 at 8:08 am

    @Mike Trecker. WOW! Who was that (if it isn’t too confidential)!?!

  • Mike Trecker

    September 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Kerry Lynch, an outstanding Combined skier who won the Holmenkollen Ski Festival title in ’83, confessed to blood doping for the ’87 Worlds where he won the silver but was subsequently DQ’d after having admitted to the plan. Some of the story on Wikipedia:

  • Mike Trecker

    September 30, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    And my bad, Kerry was never World Champion but he sure seemed like it. An amazing talent succumbing to enormous pressure.

  • nordic_dave

    September 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I believe as the story goes Kerry turned himself in vs. “being caught”. I breifly went to college with Kerry umm “way back when” and I also know that he is doing great things in terms of fund raising and organization for the Nordic Combined program out of Steamboat.

    Kerry is a great guy and does not need to be judged or demonized. He made a mistake and owned up to it. In my book that is huge! Let someone who is without sin cast the first stone! We need Kerry to keep doing what he is doing and he has quietly done great things for the current Nordic Combined program.

    Thanks Kerry!

  • Mike Trecker

    October 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I thank Kerry too, especially for turning himself in. He never gets enough credit for that. But let’s remember that his leaders, Jim Page, and Doug Peterson, while in the role of USST, encouraged Kerry to take the plunge. I’m just pointing out that the United States is not immune to temptation and pressure. Granted he’s doing great things but that does nothing to make my pessimism about professional and Olympic sports go away, if anything, it only adds to it. I’m not about to sit here and say “My country is clean and everyone else is dirty.” Nobody knows, and that is ultimately, the problem, nobody knows. And that is why its dirty business.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    October 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Not sure if true, but i heard Kerry Lynch only came clean after other athletes/coaches learned of his digressions, threatend to reveal, and then he confessed. Just like US Cycling guys in 1984. Kerry Lynch was a good N.C. athlete, but would not likley have been a chamnpion without blood packing. He is a smart guy, and i doubt he would disagree his cheating directly led to a medal (%5+ gain realized by doping/blood packing is huge at that level)

    Todays US NC team seems to be clean , so cheers to them. From a fan’s perspective, i wish they would enter US x-c Nats more often for performance comparison (same for biathlon). My predicton, at a US x-c Nats. held in the central states, eastern Rockies US (read lots of college racers that would not normally travel to AK), the NC boys would be lucky to crack the top 10 or even 15. I think it would be a wakeup to fans of the sport just how fast one has to ski to place in the top 5 of a WC distance race (Freeman). I think USBA boys would break top 10, and possibly even top 5.

Leave a Reply