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Racing against the fluor ban clock: Finland’s battle

As the World Cup premiere in Ruka approaches, the controversy surrounding the ban on fluorinated ski preparation products has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the skiing community. In the wake of Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel’s disqualification in alpine skiing, many are apprehensive about the situation on the tracks.

Photo: Harald Steiner/Bildbyrån

Illustration Photo

Less than a week after the fluor scandal in Sölden, it became clear why the skis had excessive fluor levels: Tools in the waxing room were to blame.

The incident has caused alarm and concern throughout the skiing community, even far beyond the alpine camp. Not only is it feared that a slight slip in the waxing room. Many also fear deliberate sabotage.

The prohibition of fluor products poses additional challenges for the teams’ support staff and questions about the effectiveness of testing equipment. An extra layer of complexity is the lack of a ban on these products in national competitions, where individual national federations have not explicitly enforced it, as reported by Fondo Italia recently. 

On the opening weekend of the Suomen Cup in Finland, there were no restrictions on fluor products. This has left athletes who intend to compete in FIS events facing the daunting task of thorough equipment and environment cleansing.

Mika Venäläinen, former service manager of the Finnish national cross-country team, recently admitted using fluorinated products while preparing skis for the Puijo Ski Club in Vuokatti. 

He simply admitted the use of fluor products when asked about the presence of fluor on the skis:

“Yes,” Venäläinen said to Yle.fi.

This preparation was carried out using the Jämin Jänne club truck, also employed by the Finnish national team in cross-country. Before the truck can proceed to Ruka for the World Cup’s opening event, it must undergo an extensive decontamination process to eliminate any trace of fluor, as even the slightest residue can result in a ‘red’ positive test.

Venäläinen expressed his wish for a more gradual transition period to phase out the use of fluoride entirely. He pointed out that in Finland, as in many parts of the world, these products are commonly used at all levels of competition, including by recreational skiers.

Hannu Koivusalo, director of the Finnish Cup, explained the continued allowance of fluorinated products in national competitions. 

“The rule was introduced relatively recently, and the accompanying guidelines came on short notice. There was insufficient time to implement this standard in national practices within that timeframe,” Koivusalo explained.

Economic concerns also play a significant role. Fluor testing equipment is costly, with an approximate price of 30.000 euros, and conducting on-site tests adds to the expenses. Koivusalo pointed out that during the season, numerous races take place in Finland on the same day. If a ban on fluor use were to be imposed in national races, it would necessitate testing at each event.

“Acquiring ten devices is a budgetary challenge,” Koivusalo says and adds: 

“The fact that the ban will possibly and probably be fully implemented at some point requires a little more time than the schedule currently being attempted.”

Fear of sabotage 

Sabotage is a hot topic within the fluor ban. Earlier today, ProXCskiing.com reported that the Swedish national team is also alert about the possibility of sabotage. 

Read More – The fluor ban: Fears of sabotage

Maja Dahlqvist is one of several Swedish cross-country skiers worried about deliberate sabotage when the World Cup starts in Ruka at the end of November, and the total ban on fluor comes into force. 

The cross-country skier, who won the sprint World Cup for the second year last winter, is supported by Sweden’s national team manager Ander Byström. 

“It’s impossible to protect against this,” Byström told the Swedish newspaper Expressen.

Sweden’s national team veteran Calle Halfvarsson is among the skiers skeptical about how the fluor ban will work at the World Cup in cross-country skiing.

“I feel uncertain. I know that there have been a lot of problems with the testing equipment. It hasn’t worked, but suddenly, it’s supposed to work now. But can we be sure that it will work on the day we stand there and start in Ruka? I don’t know,” Halfvarsson says and adds: 

“It would be a disaster if we’re standing there and it doesn’t work. And what do you do then?”

But even if the testing equipment proves to work, the ban and the way it is enforced opens up a new challenge: The risk of sabotage. 

“Yes, that aspect is present,” says Sweden’s national team manager Ander Byström. 

He points out how little it takes to test red in the fluor control after the finish. 

“All it takes is for a spectator to get the idea that ‘that guy is going too fast now’ and throw fluor on the course. And you can never protect yourself from that kind of sabotage,” says Byström.

Read More: Norwegian fluor-free guide becomes an international standard.

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Photo: Johanna Lundberg/Bildbyrån
Photo: Johanna Lundberg/Bildbyrån

herese Johaug won today’s 30km race at the Norwegian Championships part 2 - illustration photo

Dominant win for Johaug at the Norwegian Championships

Therese Johaug secured first place in the 30km individual start race in freestyle technique at the Norwegian cross-country skiing Championships part 2, in her first race at the elite level after retirement. Results from the 30km race.

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