FIS to Assess Russian Anti-Doping Progress This Weekend

Nathaniel HerzNovember 5, 2010
Russian cross-country skier Nikolai Pankratov was stopped at the Swiss border in November with suspicious drugs and intravenous equipment.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) will consider further sanctions against the Russian Ski Association this weekend at its autumn council meetings in Oberhofen, Switzerland.

After withholding some $185,000 in funding from the Russians at its June meetings in response to a string of anti-doping rules violations, FIS officials will now consider whether to levy additional fines or even strip the country’s membership rights—though such measures are unlikely, according to Luke Bodensteiner, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s vice president for athletics.

At the June meetings, FIS gave the Russians a series of ultimatums: get rid of the coaches of athletes found guilty of doping; install a new group of officials and trainers who were not associated with rule-breaking; and deliver a report on the country’s progress in its anti-doping fight by November 1.

That report was submitted on time, and the issue will be considered this weekend by the council, an 18-member committee made up of prominent figures in skiing from around the world—including U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President Bill Marolt.

Given the Russians’ efforts since June—they fired at least eight coaches and support staff, according to an AP report last week—Bodensteiner told FasterSkier that he did not expect to see additional sanctions emerge this weekend, though he said that any more violations in the future would probably still result in penalties.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where they haven’t produced a good plan,” he said.

In the AP report published last week, FIS President and council member Gian Franco Kasper also said that he was “very optimistic” the country would avoid sanctions, and he praised the country for taking the problem “very seriously.”

However, Bodensteiner added that the agenda noted the case of Nikolai Pankratov, a Russian skier who was detained at the Swiss border in September with a suspicious drug called actovegin, as well as equipment for intravenous injections, the use of which is banned under FIS rules.

While Pankratov is not a member of the Russian national team, Bodensteiner said that the country’s ski federation would probably still be held accountable for the actions of any of its athletes.

“FIS doesn’t really differentiate if you’re on the national team or not,” he said. “If they’re in your nation, they’re your responsibility.”

According to Bodensteiner, the discussion is slotted in the middle of the weekend’s agenda, meaning that it could occur either Saturday or Sunday. He said that FIS Doping Panel Chair Patrick Smith, a Canadian superior court justice, would be the council member making any recommendation for action.

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.

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