October 19, 2016 - 4:30 AM
OSLO - Defending cross-country World Cup champion Therese Johaug was handed a two-month provisional suspension Wednesday pending a full investigation into her positive doping test.
Johaug, one of Norway's most decorated female cross-country skiers, tested positive for the steroid clostebol. The Norwegian ski federation said the drug came from a lotion given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen to treat sunburn on her lips during high-altitude training in Italy in August.
In a tear-filled news conference last week, Johaug insisted she was without guilt and said Bendiksen had assured her the lotion did not contain any banned substance.
Anti-Doping Norway imposed a provisional suspension until Dec. 18, meaning Johaug will miss the start of the World Cup season.
In a statement issued by the Norwegian ski federation, Johaug said she wouldn't appeal the decision.
"Now I will focus on what's most important: working for a full acquittal," she said.
Niels Kiaer, an attorney for the agency, told The Associated Press that investigators will evaluate the case more closely in coming weeks to determine the appropriate penalty. He said under international doping rules that could range between a two-month suspension to a four-year ban.
"The fact that she has now been suspended provisionally means she has some degree of fault," Kiaer said. "Which degree of fault is what we will now investigate."
The 28-year-old Johaug has three Olympic medals and 11 World Championship medals, including seven golds. She won gold in the 4x5 kilometre relay at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, with a bronze and silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She's won the overall World Cup title twice.
Anti-doping Norway also launched an investigation into Bendiksen, who resigned as team doctor after taking the blame for Johaug's positive test.
"It now seems fairly clear that it was caused by a medicine delivered by the doctor," Kiaer said. "We need to evaluate if he also is in breach of the rules."
Johaug's case has rattled Norway and comes just months after its top male cross-country skier, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, got a two-month suspension for a doping infringement related to an asthma medication.
Norwegian cross-country skiers have dominated both the men's and women's competitions in recent years.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016