Occasional thoughts, rants, musings, and stories from xcskiworld.com Editor/Founder J.D. Downing
Note: The opinions and thoughts contained within the Editor's Column are the sole property of the author and are not necessarily reflect the opinions of members of the American Cross Country Skiers, organizational sponsors, and/or xcskiworld.com advertisers.
SoHo Trio Finale
Sometime either this week or later this month, the world will finally learn the "official" order of finish in the 2002 Olympic XC women's pursuit...as well as several other races contested that fortnight.
In a Swiss courtroom, Canadian Beckie Scott and several Norwegian A Team men will present their case that all medals garnered by the "So Ho Trio" of Danilova/Lazutina/Muehlegg should be forfeit due to positive doping tests at the Olympics. If the Canadian/Norwegian appeal wins, Scott will make history as the first Olympian to ever hold (at some point in time) all three medals from a single Olympic event...in the SAME Olympics! On the men's side, the historic Norwegian tie for silver in the men's pursuit would become an historic tie for gold. On and on the stories will go as medal after medal will change hands. Such was the chaos created by three athletes and a few vials of blood.
Previous columns have documented how xcskiworld.com editorial staff feels about how this appeal should turn out...and how shamefully long it has taken to reach a final resolution. What's more, despite very interesting debate and commentary on the overall doping picture (as well as what constitutes doping), the vast majority of xcskiworld.com readership agrees. The positive tests have been through so many appeals one might think a crime of violence had taken place rather than blood manipulation for athletic gain. International courts have looked at every possible argument and rejected them all. The trio was caught, pure and simple.
Yet there is zero guarantee of the outcome on this final and very significant issue.
Even though the International Olympic Committee has now made it official policy to strip all medals from athletes with positive doping tests during a Games, that decision is not retroactive to February 2002. IOC administrators have held firm for over a year and a half that the Olympic rules do not allow them to strip all medals...only those collected before the positive doping test. The appeal heard this week is based on the Olympic Charter that says athletes must play by the rules and if they don't, they lose both the right to play AND also any spoils collected.
In many ways it will boil down to how the court interprets the Olympic Charter, the Olympic oath, and (in some ways) the essential meaning of the Olympic ideal. Both sides can win. And both sides can lose. A true toss-up.
One way or another, history will be made when the decision is finally read. Yet, what seems most striking about getting to the end of the line in this bizarre and torturous road is the simple fact that a ski race has to be decided in a courtroom rather than out in the snow and wilderness.
For a sport that can (at least in many eyes) claim a certain element of higher meaning over so many other mass media-driven activities, no matter what the Swiss verdict turns out to be, in some ways we all will have lost.