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Jan. 5 Roundup: Cheating in Worldloppets; Ustiugov on Public Perception; Sundby Defends Russians

– According to the International Association of Worldloppet Skiers (IAWLS) in a Dec. 29 post on its website, cheating has infiltrated the highest level of master’s cross-country ski racing, with a system that’s existed for “many years” and was carried out by multiple participants.

The scheme was a bit elaborate, so bear with us:

One racer would carry the timing chip of another skier who didn’t race, nor was anywhere near the race, in their pocket during the Worldloppet marathon. The racer also had their own timing chip, which registered at the start, finish and throughout checkpoints on the course — as did the chip in their pocket.

After the race, two Worldloppet passports were stamped, and two Master Diplomas were later granted — one for the person that raced and one for the one that didn’t.

This has created problems with results across the circuit, spanning for several years.

“This means there are many invalid Master diplomas today, shown in WL webpages,” the IAWLS noted. “According to the rules, both skiers involved in the scheme are disqualified and if a Master diploma contains a disqualified race that Master and all results in it become invalid.”

A working group of investigators found that this cheating pattern dates back to 2011.

“The chips indicate identical times (intermediate and finish) of two members of the cheating group whereas the pictures/videos show the presence of only one skier (pictures of the second skier are not available for the good reason that he did not ski the race),” the post noted. “A report on these findings was sent to WL who handled the case at their annual Worldloppet Congress in June 2016. The investigating work group making the reports was all IAWLS members and this cheating system was also discovered by IAWLS members.”

“This massive and unprecedented cheating led to strong reactions,” it continued. “WL-congress made some statements and decisions which included to delete all cheat results and affected masters already submitted. This was after carefully analyzing the documents, connected pictures and films in reports given to them. And WL also made a statement saying that the cheats are no more welcome at any of the Worldloppet races. This means that no new WL Master applications will be accepted from this group of cheats. These are very strong and clear words from WL.”


– The man dominating the Tour de Ski through four stages so far, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov  gets the impression that some of his competitors think he’s not competing clean.

“Honestly, I do not know. Perhaps some of the athletes look at me strangely. I do not know,” he told the media on the first day of the Tour, according to A reporter asked him if it was possible for a Russian to win and not be suspected of doping.

“It is unpleasant to hear that if you are Russian and perform well, you are probably using performance enhancing drugs,” he responded. “I do not like that people think like this and ask questions like these.”

At least Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby vouches for him. Currently second to Ustiugov in the Tour, Sundby has said that he is absolutely sure that the Russian skiers are not doping, Ski-Lines reported.

“I trust them [the Russian cross-country skiers] 100 percent,” Sundby said. “I have easily performed with them for 17 years, and we have a long history of struggle on the road. I trust these guys.”


– On Dec. 30, Russian athletes continued to be in the news as the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced its decision to provisionally suspend four Russian skeleton racers for violating the anti-doping rules during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, according to Tass. The IBSF was informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that an investigation was opened regarding the violations, which led the IBSF to suspend four Russian skeleton athletes effective Dec. 30, 2016. Russian skeleton racers won two medals at the Sochi Olympics. Alexander Tretiakov won gold and Yelena Nikitina earned bronze. Also on Dec. 30, six Russian cross-country skiers, including 2014 Olympic champion Alexander Legkov, were subject to provisional suspensions as well by FIS since their urine samples were allegedly tampered with.  This is all laid out in the McLaren report where over 1,000 Russian athletes were named.


– French biathlete Simon Fourcade has been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, according to a post on his Facebook page on Dec. 28. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that is caused by toxoplasmas, and is usually transmitted through undercooked meat, in soil or in cat feces. There are usually no symptoms in adults, but it mimic the flu.

“The rate of testing are unusually high and suggest the presence of the parasite in your body and an infection relatively recent,” Fourcade quoted the results of his blood tests.

After struggling the last two IBU World Cups, the older brother of Martin Fourcade now knows why he was getting fatigued so quickly in recent few weeks. There is no special treatment for toxoplasmosis so he planned to rest and work on getting back into shape before returning to racing in 2017. Fourcade will have to work his way back up to the top form once he returns.


– Not that we need another reason to get out and ski, but a recent study done by the Mayo Clinic generated a list of the 36 most popular forms of exercise and their caloric impacts. The study is based off a 200-pound individual working out for an hour. Cross-country skiing came in at 15th on the list, burning 619 calories/hour. Other popular sports on the list were: #7) Tennis (728 calories/hr.), #6) Running at 5 mph (755 calories/hr.) and #4) Swimming (892 calories/hr.). The No. 1 exercises were: running at 8 mph which burns 1,074 calories/hr, and skipping rope which also burns 1,074 calories/hr, according to Business Insider.


– On Dec. 26, the Italian Team Sprint Championships took place at Fiera di Primiero in Trentino, Italy. The five-time defending champions Federico Pellegrino and Dietmar Nöckler were looking to win their sixth title, but collided during an exchange, which resulted in Pellegrino breaking his pole and the pair being disqualified, according to a FIS news release. This opened the door for Maicol Rastelli and Fabio Pasini to take the overall win.

In the women’s race, Gaia Vuerich and Debora Roncari took the team victory while Ilaria Debertolis crashed out of contention on the final corner after making contact with Vuerich.

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon 

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