To sweeten the pill for Norwegians' fellow competitors and somehow whitewash the national idols caught for using asthma medication and steroids, Jan Ove Tangen, a professor of sports sociology at the University of South-Eastern Norway, advocated controlled doping use in order to eliminate suspicion and provide equal opportunities to contenders.
"Norwegian cross-country top-level skiing has given itself further and further into the grey area in its hunt for medals. Yes, even gone into the forbidden territory, and some of our most renowned skiers have now been convicted of doping," Tangen wrote in an opinion piece in Norwegian newspaper Forskning, supporting his radical clause, alluding to the recently disclosed use of steroid-containing lip balm by Norway's premier medal hope Therese Johaug, which led to a provisional suspension.
According to Tangen, it is rather difficult to draw a clear line between what constitutes permissible performance-enhancing methods and what is doping, which leads to lengthy bans and destroyed careers. Consequently, any athlete who lands in a doping controversy is risking a smear campaign in the media and severe punishment by sports bodies. According to Tangen, doping may be used as a legal solution for the continuous improvement of performance, provided that the intake happens under specialists' control.
"Is doping really more unjust than the fact that some of the athletes have been blessed with superior genes over their competitors or the fact that a country may have more resources and knowledge to for talent-hunting and performance development?" Tangen asked rhetorically.
Last week, Johaug, one of Norway's most decorated female cross-country skiers of all times, tested positive for the steroid clostebol. The Norwegian ski federation said the drug came from a cream given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen to treat sunburn on her lips during high-altitude training in Italy.
Johaug's case flustered Norway as it came just months after its top male cross-country skier, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, got a two-month suspension and was stripped of his 2015 overall World Cup and Tour de Ski titles for unauthorized use of medication to treat asthma. In the summer, the Norwegian Ski Federatin admitted using asthma medication even on healthy skiers. Johaug herself admitted to using anti-asthma inhalers.