Nordic Notes with Simi Hamilton: Cross-country skiing’s doping epidemic
Special to The Aspen Times
Imagine this scenario: You’re due for a promotion at your job, but to get it you have to pass an exam.
It’s an exam that tests everything you’ve learned and trained for since you started the job nearly three decades earlier. Just a few days before you take your exam, you learn that several of your co-workers, who are up for the same promotion, stole the answers to the test, but the company president didn’t care when he found out.
Instead of those co-workers getting fired, they are allowed to carry on with business as usual, working for a paycheck and cheating during the exam to get that promotion you’re trying to get by fair means.
I’d like to believe I’m a very tolerant world citizen, but I can’t imagine there exists any culture where something like that would not only go unpunished, but be celebrated. How can cheating at anything be okay? Unfortunately, this is the world we are living in here on the cross-country World Cup.
In early November, several current Russian ski team athletes were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Since then, more Russian athletes have been named in connection to the scandal.
Here’s the kicker: Many of those athletes are travelling on the FIS World Cup circuit right now, and not only do we have to walk by them in our dining areas or sit next to them on the airplane, we have to race against them on the weekends.
Dealing with that reality is something that I have been really struggling with so far during this race season. That and the worst GI virus I think I’ve ever had, but that’s not relevant to my opinion on cheaters. Everyday I wake up, I struggle with the fact that what I will try to achieve that day when I go out to train, and what I will try to achieve that weekend when I go to win a ski race, doesn’t really matter because I’m going up against people that are known cheaters.
And there is no FIS rule that is stopping them from putting on a race bib and gunning for the same prize money and pride that I’m gunning for.
I hate that my first Aspen Times update from the World Cup isn’t about winning a race or an awesome training ski I had on the Arctic Circle. But just like “real life,” life as a ski racer is frustrating and isn’t always rainbows, and I wanted to share this emotion with all of those out there who support me as a clean athlete. The most important thing I can do is focus on controlling only what I can control. Getting and staying healthy, putting in the training I need to put in to be the best racer I can be, and setting goals that I want to achieve.
The next logical step is all of us clean athletes make our voices heard about how this makes us feel and why we know this is wrong, and we keep putting the pressure on those who make the decisions to come down harder on the cheaters who are stealing our dreams.
Editor’s note: Nordic Notes is a weekly column written by Aspen-raised cross-country skiers Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman as they compete on the World Cup circuit ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.