After the national championship relay in Tromsø, 15 men’s teams were slapped with three-minute penalties for skating in the classic portion of the race. The race jury published video of the technique infractions and said that they were aiming to be strict in enforcing the rules on classic technique.
Four teams appealed the decision, and the Appeals Committee recently agreed with them, saying that since there was no classic track on the section of the course in question, the skiers were allowed to push off of their skis instead of double-poling. Thus the time penalties were removed for those four teams.
The decision is available (in Norwegian) here.
According to John Aalberg, who was the Technical Delegate for the competitions and had been part of the six-member group who decided to penalize the 15 teams, the decision not to set tracks had been because on a steep uphill, the tracks would have been washed out immediately during warmup as skiers went up the hill using herringbone technique.
The solution that he and other technical experts have come to? Set tracks, even if they get washed out.
“The basic reason is that the current rules (according to the attorneys reviewing the appeals) say that ‘turning technique’ (basically skating with one leg) is allowed where there is no track set – this means also in uphills,” Aalberg wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “Our jury did not have this understanding of the rules and defined the ‘skating’ we observed in the uphill as wrong classical technique (in an uphill). The solution (until the rules are adjusted) is to set a track also in herringbone hills (and make sure it is marked as such).”
The skating by some skiers seemed more blatant than others, and it does not seem that the appeals committee took this into consideration. You can view the video here and check for yourself: the teams which successfully appealed were Heming (bib 12), Kjelsås (bib 5), Rindal (bib 22), and Varden Meråker 2 (bib 32).