The Norwegian Olympic Committee today issued its ruling on Therese Johaug, the cross-country ski star who tested positive for the steroid clostebol.
“Therese Johaug… loses the right to participate in competitions and organized training, and the right to be an elected or appointed officer, for a period of 13 months, effective from the date the suspension was imposed, 18 October 2016,” the Committee posted in a statement on its website, according to a translation
Johaug, Anti-Doping Norway (the organization which collected the doping sample), the International Ski Federation, the International Olympic Committee, and the World Anti-Doping Agency could each appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if they find the penalty to be inappropriate.
The standard penalty for a positive test is a four-year ban. This length may be reduced in cases where no significant fault by the athlete is identified: athletes have “strict liability” for any prohibited substance which enters their bodies, but the length of the punishment is somewhat adjustable.
Johaug used a lip cream containing clostebol to treat a severe sunburn. Anti-Doping Norway recommended a 14-month ban.
Martti Uusitalo, a board member of the International Ski Federation, told Finnish paper Ilta Sanomat that while the federation has not yet made a decision, he thinks they are likely to appeal.
“This 13-month penalty doesn’t come from the WADA or CAS rules for how decisions should be made,” he said, according to a translation. “Therefore it is best for all parties that the [Court of Arbitration for Sport] professionals examine the process.”
If the 13-month ban stands, the timeframe would see Johaug ready to compete for the 2017-2018 World Cup season and the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. While she has not participated in any official national team activities during her suspension, Johaug did go to PyeongChang to train around the time that the World Cup swung through last weekend.
Suspended athletes are allowed to return to official training two-months before their bans are complete. Norwegian team head Vidar Løfshus told NRK that it will be beneficial for Johaug to be able to rejoin the team starting next September.
She had been hoping to be able to compete in this season’s World Championships in Lahti, Finland, a scenario that now seems impossible.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.