Norwegian cross-country skier Øystein Pettersen posted the following essay on his Facebook page last week. He felt a need to respond to discussion about doping (or not) by the Norwegian national ski team after the cases of Therese Johaug and Martin Johnsrud Sundby. With his permission, we are posting an English translation for the North American ski community.
“I am glad that some are interested in the truth and not only speculation,” Pettersen wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “I have nothing to hide and am more than willing to answer any questions.”
Pettersen, age 33, is currently a member of the newly-formed BN Bank Ski Classics team. Nicknamed “The Sausage” (“Pølsa”), he previously represented Team United Bakeries, won the 2015 La Diagonala and finished third in the Marcialonga. Before that, he was a member of the Norwegian national team, where he accumulated six World Cup sprint podiums and won Olympic gold with Petter Northug in the 2010 team sprint in Vancouver, British Columbia. Despite being Norwegian, he says that his favorite Ski Classics event is Sweden’s Vasaloppet.
“There is a wind blowing in Norwegian cross-country skiing.
It blows on many fronts and it is equally sad as it is self-inflicted. I will not say anything about the cases in question, for the simple reason that I have no idea what has happened. I won’t comment on anything about the handling of cases. It is not my responsibility, and the last thing this debate needs is yet another expression of opinion without enough knowledge. But I feel it’s appropriate to talk about how I experienced my time in Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF) and how my practice was around these doping regulations.
Short backstory, I have been skier my entire adult life. Never been the world’s best, perhaps never will be. Eight years in the national team at senior level, and been on a number of other teams out there.
In today’s VG I was interviewed and yes, it’s true that what happened Therese could have happened to me. Call it naive, call it irresponsible, call it whatever you want, but I never checked anything I got from the doctor during my time on the national team.
The reason for this? As long as I have known it, the culture of cross-country Norway has always been founded on hard and honest work. Doping and bending the rules have never been accepted. For this simple — but also strong — reason, I never had any reason to believe that I would ever be breaking doping regulations by taking something I got from my NSF doctor. I salute the support I received from the federation. They worked like crazy for me to have the best possible conditions to be able to reach my sporting goals.
Doping was never even an issue. It was never a case of bending the rules or trying to take advantage of regulations. If I was sick and needed antibiotics, it was never in my mind that I would get something that was not allowed. The same was true, for example, with anti-inflammatory agents I might need for overuse injuries. Or asthma medicine for that matter. (Ed note: Pettersen has taken asthma medication since he was a child.)
Call it blunt, call it naive, call it irresponsible of me, call it what you will. I look at it as trust, respect, and I never had any reason to doubt.
The consequences for Johaug sadly have become catastrophic from a simple human error. I will not judge anyone, speculate or place blame. I’m just saying that if my doctor had made the same mistake, I also would been caught in the same trap.
NSF’s support is fantastic. My experiences were so positive that I became lazy. It is perhaps the only objection against the system. In my case, it led to the situation I never made extra checks.
I do not know if this was only the case for me. Maybe I’m the laziest of everyone, but it gets to my second comment.
What I know is that as I write this, I am dealing with an inflammation in my heel. In connection with this injury, I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory agent by a sports physician here in Lillehammer. He knows who I am and what I stand for, I know the same about him. I did not check if there was anything frightening in the package he gave me. Had the Johaug case not come up, I probably wouldn’t have even considered it either.
This case is a “wake up call” for all athletes to take responsibility for what we use.
When I look at NRK and see that 24 percent of you (the Norwegian public) think Norwegian cross-country skiers are doping, it makes me sad. But I can understand that you doubt in light of recent events. Therefore, I am very interested in being open. Is there anything you or the media are wondering about around my training, my use of medication, my routines involving ski racing? Do not hesitate to contact us.
There are sides of Norwegian cross-country skiing that are not so positive. Eating disorders, overtraining, stress, pressure, the equipment arms race and much more. But doping, this is not part of the Norwegian cross-country sport. If it is, I am the most naive, blue-eyed soul and I will retire from the sport immediately.
Now I’m going out to train. I love the cross-country skiing lifestyle and I love its development.
Have a good day!
— Erik Stange contributed translation