Friday, February 10, 2006

Opening Day

Let the games begin! After much anticipation and doubt whether or not the Italians would be ready in time, we will now know. As promised, I'll try and post some coverage of the cross country skiing and maybe even the biathlon.

The controversy about the use of PEDs and hemoglobin values has started, as well. Nine cross country skiers and Nordic combined athletes have already measured above the allowed hemoglobin limit. Just as in cycling, this does not mean they have tested positive for PEDs, but rather that they are deemed "unfit for competition". The skiers cannot compete for 5 days and will therefore lose at least 1 event during the games. As long as their values are below the allowed limit after that time, they are back in the game.

Among the athletes we find three from North America, including Sean Crooks and Leif Zimmerman. Considering that these games are held at altitude (1600 MSL), it really is no big surprise that this is happening. As I've discussed earlier, the hemoglobin values are simply too low. Many clean athletes will test over the limit, especially during the conditions we find in Italy. Most athletes have already been on location for a while, preparing at high altitudes. Naturally, hemoglobin values will elevate during these conditions and the medical support structure is without a doubt monitoring the values very closely.

The first cross country event is the 15k and 30k duathlon for women and men, respectively. Skiers to watch on the men's side are Frode Estil (Norway) and Vincent Vittoz (France) among another handful of others. On the women's side, Marit Bjoergen (Norway), Katerina Neumannova, Julija Tsjepalova, Hilde Gjermundshaug Pedersen (Norway), Kristina Smigun and Becky Scott (Canada) are hot contenders. It all starts on Sunday.

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