What science says about doping in Norway


On behalf of all scholars of sport who value scientific pursuit of truth over idle speculation, I would like to dedicate my first post of the year to the Norwegian scientists whose earnest endeavors regularly get overshadowed by attention-seeking amateur sleuths. Earlier this week, a compatriot of theirs published a book in which he claimed, among other things, that a number of Norwegian athletes have resorted (and still resort) to illicit performance-enhancing means (such as blood boosting) and that Norwegian sports officials don’t really care much about anti-doping.

Titled Den store dopingbløffen, or The Great Doping Bluff, the sensationalist tome by Mads Drange not only thrives on speculation; it bluntly ignores recent academic discoveries concerning the role of doping in Norwegian sport. In what follows, I simply deflate the former anti-doping official’s pompous pamphlet by presenting respected Norwegian scholars’ findings on the topic.

First of all, no serious observer can overlook the fact that ’cultural differences’ account for the ’systematic use of doping’ in some countries. In Norway, by contrast, doping is perceived as ’high treason against the nation’, hence the conspicuous shortage of so-called drug cheats. (S. Loland and D.V. Hanstad, What is efficient doping control? NSSS, 2005.)

Indeed, the ’Norwegian attitude to doping has always been clear’, and Norway’s self-defined role as a ’moral leader with regard to sports ethics’ is acknowledged across the globe. Since the early 1990s, this tiny Nordic country has successfully combined a ’high level of performance with a plain ”no” to the use of performance-enhancing substances’, a truly remarkable achievement that has been validated by at least two surveys:

’No elite athletes, neither in 1993 nor in 2003, stated that they would use doping and practically no one from the two coach groups from 2003 answered ”yes”. … Elite athletes were most clearly opposed to the use of these (banned) substances. The reason for this may be that most individuals in this group have been socialized into a pronounced anti-doping culture.’ (R. Gilberg, G. Breivik and S. Loland in Doping in Sport: Global Ethical Issues, 2008.)

Still another academic study confirms the ’unanimous rejection’ of illicit drugs and methods by Norwegian top athletes. Again, the outright rejection of unethical means can be attributed to the ’strong anti-doping culture’ that prevails in Norway. No doubt the ’strict and clearly articulated public Norwegian anti-doping attitude’ has had a ’strong regulative effect’ on Norwegian athletes irrespective of their discipline. (G. Breivik, D.V. Hanstad and S. Loland in Sport in Society, 6/2009.)

As regards cross-country skiing, the national sport beloved by each and every Norwegian, it is no secret that Norway has always stood in favor of ’active anti-doping work’. In fact, Norwegian sports physicians and skiers too have often called for ’improve(d) anti-doping activity’. (D.V. Hanstad in European Sports Management Quarterly, 4/2008.) Come to think of it, Norway’s exemplary anti-doping strategy should be adopted by ’tainted’ ski nations such as Russia in order to finally ’clean up’ their act (D.V. Hanstad, The suspicion towards Russia, INHDR, 2011).

Tons of identical evidence could easily be adduced, but the point has been made. Alas, scientific truths can hardly dominate headlines to the same extent as speculative ruminations by people whose only claim to fame might be a few years’ work experience in an anti-doping laboratory. Let me nonetheless plead with Norwegian scholars to stand up and be counted! Don’t let your athletes down and the honor of your country undefended! Keep on disseminating the science-based message of yours amid recurrent media furor over unsubstantiated allegations!


  1. Jag måste erkänna att jag sitter och asgarvar när jag läser denna självgoda arrogans i kjölvattnet av Sundby och Thereses dopingfall. Fantastiskt humor detta.

  2. Lance Armstrong was always extremely anti-doping during his career. The current events unfolding in Norway clearly imply a similar case of systematic doping as US Postal.

  3. This topic is very interesting and the sovereign leadership of Norway in skiing requires more investigation. This is not a phenomenon that one could call natural.

    I would be interested to know:
    1)are skiers really tested enough and without notice? It is easy to make national testing program that seems effective but the testing dates are not really secret so one can optimize doping usage schedule.
    2) frequent low level epo dosing for doping could be tailored to fit the known testing schedules. The epo-positivity of Johaug was low level and could be the result of this kind of strategy. Certainly not lip stick what is a laughable excuse.

    More accurate and unpredictable testing should be concerning everyone but could be especially targeted to last seasons top performers.

  4. Scientific proof? lol, this is like asking athlets if they cheated instead of testing them.
    It’s now well known than more than 70% of norwegian medalists take anti-asthma drugs. Many of them make blood doping as well and take, let’s say other ”stuff” (not to make any publicity for the products).

    Norway, together with Russia and Spain, are well reputed to be at the upronf of technology regarding Cheating with Doping.

  5. Presently the best athletes in cross-country skiing is Alexander Bolshunov and with all attention to russian athletes he is a clean hard working athlete. In spite of it, 4 norwgian athletes beat him in his favorite distance by 1 minute. How it is possible without any doping. Science is strong in Norway.


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