(ATR) IOC President Thomas Bach is disturbed there will be no formal drug testing at X Games Oslo next week.
A smile left Bach’s face at the closing press conference for the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games when he discussed X Games Oslo, which runs Wednesday through Sunday in the Norwegian capital.
"We're concerned about one issue," Bach said. "We have been informed this morning that there will be no anti-doping testing compliant with the WADA rules. You know the clear position of the IOC with regard to the protection of the clean athletes. We want to see the clean athletes protected in all sports events, so we will discuss this issue with WADA."
Snowboarder Chloe Kim of the U.S., who won two YOG gold medals, including one in Oslo at the halfpipe event last Sunday, is among the invited athletes, which include many Olympic medalists.
However, drug testing has never been an official part of the X Games, an ESPN made-for-TV event celebrating extreme sports athletes and their counter-culture lifestyle. The X Games and the similar Winter Dew Tour are not FIS-sanctioned, which means they count as out-of-competition.
An ESPN spokesperson told Around the Rings, "Since the beginning of this project, and in accordance with the agreement that is in place for X Games Oslo, we have consistently communicated that X Games is an independent event, with its own guidelines for competition and athlete participation. At X Games Oslo, the federations can operate as they have for 20 years at X Games events around the world, and we are happy to provide accreditation and space for them to perform their normal ‘out of competition’ testing procedures. However, we are not prepared to change the X Games guidelines for participation at this time."
The spokesperson added, "As proponents of fair play, and as we do with all aspects of the X Games, we regularly evaluate our processes and policies. If at any time we believe there is an issue, we will address it and make necessary adjustments."
With WADA leading the fight against doping, Bach said WADA is the right partner to discuss this issue with the Norwegian government and ascertain its attitude regarding code compliance in all sporting events.
ESPN broadcasts the X Games on multiple platforms, with TV2, the leading broadcaster in Norway, showing the event in Norway.
Interestingly, the previous X Games event this season in Aspen, Colorado, took place in a state where marijuana is legal.
The rules on marijuana have changed since Canadian Ross Rebagliati won the first Olympic snowboarding gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Games and nearly lost it when he tested positive for the drug. He attributed the positive test to second-hand smoke and his medal was restored. These days, marijuana is only prohibited in sanctioned competition and is not tested out-of-competition.
Max Parrot of Canada told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colorado, in January 2014, that he was refraining from marijuana use because he had to undergo WADA testing for the 2014 Sochi Games.
The statement by Bach obviously struck a nerve at ESPN.
"We are against cheating, have a long track record as a strong proponent of fair play, and have not had any instances or allegations that are a cause for concern to date at X Games (over more than 20 years)," the ESPN spokesperson said.
"For 20 years, the best athletes in the world – including those who are members of many federations all around the world -- have attended X Games events in many locations. During that time "out of competition" procedures have been acceptable and this should continue.
"This is not unique to X Games, as there are other independent events which operate similarly, with their own guidelines for participation and testing."
X Games Oslo will mark the first time both summer and winter sports will be contested internationally at the same X Games event. Disciplines include Snowboard and Ski Big Air, Snowboard and Ski SuperPipe and Skateboard Street.
Three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark of the U.S.; Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland, the Sochi gold medalist in snowboard halfpipe; Jamie Anderson of the U.S., the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in snowboard slopestyle, Maddie Bowman and David Wise, the 2014 gold medalists from the U.S. in ski halfpipe, and Gus Kenworthy from the U.S., the silver medalist in ski slopestyle and noted dog rescuer in Sochi, are among the participants.
Written by Karen Rosen in Lillehammer.
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