Skeleton Racer Cleared to Compete in Turin Top-ranked American skeleton racer Zach Lund has been cleared by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to compete in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. He had tested positive for a banned substance that is often used to mask steroid use, but he said he used it to treat balding.
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Skeleton Racer Cleared to Compete in Turin

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Skeleton Racer Cleared to Compete in Turin

Skeleton Racer Cleared to Compete in Turin

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. It looks as though the once-suspended coach of the US skeleton team will get his job back. Skeleton racing is a winter Olympic sport like bobsledding but with even smaller metal sleds. The coach, Tim Nardiello, was accused of sexually harassing women on the US team. Yesterday, an arbitrator found no evidence supporting the allegations. The US Olympic committee has the final say. It's going to make an announcement this week.

BRAND: And in other news in the high-speed world of skeleton skating, top American racer Zach Lund is going to the Olympics. He recently failed a drug test, though, and he could have gotten a two-year ban, but yesterday, Lund was given just a public warning. Here is more from NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Zach Lund isn't like a lot of men. He spent the last ten years of his life getting really good at rocketing down an icy track headfirst on a sled. But at the same time, Zach Lund is like a lot of other men. He hates the fact that he's going bald, and in an effort to save the hair, he almost destroyed the decade of skeleton racing.

In November, Lund was in first place on the World Cup circuit when he tested positive for finasteride. It's an illegal substance that can mask the presence of steroids. It's also in the hair loss medication Lund's been taking since 1999. Finasteride was added to the list of banned substances for Olympic athletes just last year, a fact that slipped right by Zach Lund.

Mr. ZACH LUND (Skeleton Racer, United States): I just made a stupid error and it had, you know, it had been legal for years, and it just became illegal this year, and I didn't know, and it was just an oversight on my part.

GOLDMAN: In an era of intense doping scrutiny, at least in Olympic sports, saying I didn't know isn't exactly the strongest defense. Lund and his lawyer knew that. They provided a bunch of material to US anti-doping investigators. They showed how Lund always documented his finasteride use on drug test forms. They made Lund's doctors available to confirm Lund was taking finasteride for male pattern baldness and not performance enhancement. They did lab work to show Lund wasn't masking anything. Despite all these efforts, Lund was nervous about the outcome of his case.

Mr. LUND: I was really afraid that I was going to become a martyr for drug tests, you know what I mean? A lot of times it comes down to in these issues it's just black and white.

GOLDMAN: And in that black and white world, Lund acknowledges he's guilty. He tested positive for a banned substance. He's thankful the anti-doping recognized the shades of grey in his case and - in his words - saw what happened as an honest mistake. Reportedly, Lund's light punishment, a public warning, still could be appealed by the world anti-doping agency, but as of now he's going to Turin, where, undoubtedly, some will talk about Lund as the guy who's losing his hair.

Mr. LUND: And it's kind of funny that my biggest insecurity is national news now. It's actually gotten me a lot more confident in myself and realize, you know what? This really isn't that big of a deal, and I'm just going to let things take its course, you know?

GOLDMAN: Lund no longer uses his controversial hair loss medication, so things may very well take their course. Or, as he puts it, if this is God's way of telling me I'm meant to go bald, I got the message. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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