Ban sending Lund back home

The U.S. slider, cleared of cheating, gets a one-year suspension.

Associated Press
Published February 11, 2006

CESANA, Italy - A court agreed that Zach Lund is no drug cheat. Then it dashed the U.S. slider's Olympic dream anyway - and along with it, the turmoil-wracked skeleton team's best hope for gold.

Lund was banned from the Turin Olympics on Friday for taking a common hair-restoration pill with an ingredient that can be used to mask steroids.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport - while saying it believes Lund did not cheat - ruled he should serve a one-year suspension anyhow, retroactive to Nov.10 and enforced immediately.

So instead of preparing to hurtle down an icy track face-first on a sled, Lund will spend a couple of nights in a Turin hotel, then head home to Utah early next week, before his teammates even compete.

"If you ask any champion, the road to the top is never easy," Lund said on a conference call, his voice breaking while teammates readied for the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

"This is just another bump in the road," he said. "It's not going to keep me from my athletic goals and my life goals. One of them is being an Olympian. So I'll definitely be back."

Chris Soule, who was seventh at the Salt Lake Olympics four years ago, is expected to arrive today to replace Lund on the U.S. team, joining Eric Bernotas and Kevin Ellis.

"On a whole, his skeleton teammates and coaches are devastated by this decision," said Terry Kent, the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation's sports director.

Now it would seem to be up to Bernotas - who won a World Cup event at Lake Placid earlier this season and was the top American in the final standings - to win a medal for U.S. skeleton.

Lund has always listed the hair-restoration drug on his medical forms, and insists that's proof he wasn't hiding anything. But he said he didn't check the forms in 2005 when finasteride, an ingredient in his hair medication that he's since thrown away, was added to the banned list.

"Unfortunately, in 2005, he made a mistake," the court wrote.

Lund told the court he was misled by the Web site of the governing body of his sport, which lists finasteride both as a "prohibited substance" and a "specified substance."

"It was very confusing," said Lund's attorney, Howard Jacobs. "The international federation shouldn't be able to put things on their Web site that are misleading to athletes and leave them there without any consequences."

Last month, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency decided Lund deserved only a public warning and should forfeit his second-place finish from the season's opening World Cup event in Calgary, where he tested positive in November. But the World Anti-Doping Agency wanted a tougher sanction and appealed to the court for a two-year ban. Lund will be able to compete again on Nov. 9, but will not have to forfeit any other results from this season aside from Calgary.

"Mr. Lund was not well served by the anti-doping organizations," the court wrote. "The Panel concluded that Mr. Lund bears no significant fault or negligence."

David Howman, the world doping agency's director general, said the organization was "comfortable" with the one-year ban.

"The correct process was followed," Howman said. "CAS functioned in the way we have come to expect of them. ... Once the offense is established, then the onus goes on the athlete to convince the panel that there was no fault or no significant fault. The panel found no significant fault."

Lund narrowly missed making the Olympic team in 2002.