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Commonwealth Games 2002

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  Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 18:50 GMT
Alain Baxter on medal decision
E-mail Alain on his experience
Alain answers your questions following the IOC's decision to strip him of his Olympic bronze medal.

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    Alain Baxter won Britain's first ever Olympic ski medal at Salt Lake City, bagging bronze in the men's slalom.

    But a subsequent drugs test proved positive for a banned stimulant, and the IOC ordered the medal's return.

    Alain insists the traces were from an American Vicks nasal stick, which has a different make up to the British version approved by team doctors.

    But under IOC rules, athletes have total responsibilty for what they ingest and naivety is no defence.

    BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson talked to Alain Baxter, and asked him some of your questions.

    Anna Thompson: Alain, it's a day after you've been stripped of your medal, how are you feeling today?

    I think it will take a long time to sink in, but I've had a long time to think about it. The last three weeks have been pretty tough.

    Matt Miller, USA

    Do you feel hard done by that four years ago in Nagano, Ross Rebagliati tested positive for a non-performance enhancing drug that he had "mistakenly" inhaled, only to be let off by the IOC?

    Rules are rules, but I do feel in my case that they should give a little bit of slack, as especially as there is another test that can prove that what I took was not performance enhancing - it's a nasal inhaler, you know?

    John Campbell, England

    I'm gutted for you. How can a nasal inhaler possibly make you ski better? I'll try it before I play football tonight. What a joke.

    That side of methamphetamine is not performance enhancing, all it does is clear your nose and help you breathe easier.

    AT: And no way could it make you perform better in that slalom?

    That's what the chemists are saying - it doesn't.

    Graham, Canada

    Responsibility is the issue. He alone is responsible for what goes into his body. Making an assumption that US and UK formulations are the same is extremely naive.

    I bought the inhaler and used it, but only because I thought it was the same as the British one. There's a case where they can test for the two different sides of the methamphetamine. The L side is the inhaler, and the other side is speed. But the test would prove that the L side was in my body.

    Will, Finland

    If Alain was, say, a Bulgarian rather than a Scot, his claims would have been met with derision.

    AT: Do you think that the press are treating you differently because it is you?

    I know myself that I'm not a drug cheat. When I got the call I had no idea how the substance got in my body, or even what it was. It's pretty hard to say.

    AT: So when you got the call, you didn't immediately realize it was the Vicks inhaler?

    It took me a while, over a day. We found the Vicks Sinex, which was cleared, in my washbag. But I was talking to my coach and he said it must be that. But then we checked the inhaler, which doesn't even let the liquid go up your nose, just a scent. I had no idea.

    I was also lead to believe that it was a high positive test. But last week in Lausanne I found it was just a trace. Some labs wouldn't even have picked it up as a positive test.

    AT: Does that make it even worse, the fact that it is a tiny trace? Or is that better for your case?

    It is good for the case, but it it just seems that I have run into a lot of bad luck.

    AT: So how did it actually come about? You said that your coach bought the Vicks Sinex but you thought that was too strong.

    Myself and my brother were sharing a room. We were both blocked up pretty bad what with the change in climate, and the room's heating, and the altitude. My coach went to buy a humidifier for the room, and I asked him to buy the inhaler. He came back with the Sinex, which I've never liked using.

    Then two days later I had a day off and I was doing a bit of shopping. I got the Vicks inhaler, which I thought was the same as the one I had used before in Britain, which is OK to use in competition, and just started using that.

    AT: When was the last time you had used it?

    Probably an hour before the race. And even if I had forgotten to take it that day, the trace was so small, I might not have tested positive.

    Alison Chappell, UK

    The IOC has lost the plot here. They have forgotten the original purpose of the testing and punishment regimes - to prevent cheating. If (as in this case) the substance could not possibly have helped the athlete in their sport, why shame and ruin them?

    Well they do have their rules and they have to stick by them, but this other test does prove there are two sides to methamphetamine, and the other side is totally clear, so I think they should look into that seriously. And there are other banned substances that have thresholds, and if I was in that bracket, again I'd be clear.

    Ian Westwood, UK

    The British team should take some of the blame for this fiasco. It's common knowledge that over-the-counter medicines are different in different countries, as each country has a set list of chemicals that can and cannot be used.

    It was my mistake. There were doctors around that could have checked it out. It was my fault for buying it. They could be stricter, and have somebody around who can check, for people like me who are a bit naive...but that's for the future, my mistake is made.

    AT: And when you got there you did have a meeting with the BOC doctors, who asked you what you were taking - but you weren't taking the Vicks at that time. Did they tell you that if you bought anything else you should bring it to them, or did they not really force the message home?

    It was all done by the book. I don't take much, I just had some sleeping pills which were marked clear, and then the Sinex, which was marked clear.

    AT: How many times have you gone over and over it in your head?

    You can only do that a certain amount of times. It's been done, I just have to deal with it now. I have to try and get my life back to normal.

    AT: So what happens now? You've got 21 days in which to launch an appeal, what will you be considering before you take that decision?

    The main thing is too clear my name, and find out about the ban, if there is one, then get back to competing. I plan on skiing next week, maybe test some skis.

    AT: This hasn't put you off then? You've got Olympics 2006 in Turin, does this make you more determined?

    I should be racing now! Definitely, I've got another four years, as long as I'm fit and enjoying skiing I'll still be here.

    AT: What races have you missed these last three weeks?

    There's a lot of national championships. The giant slalom is the main goal, at the end of the season, I'll try and save my giant slalom points. Then there's the Scottish Championships. But as soon as the positive test comes through you have to stop competing.

    AT: Do you think you will get your medal back?

    There is a small chance. I think there have been cases won in the past, but I've kind of come to terms with the fact it has gone. But I have to appeal, to clear my name. And also, the IOC could possibly change its rules on methamphetamine, so you never know.

    AT: Have you had a lot of support from fellow skiers?

    I've not spoken to many, but the guys I have spoken to a few who said that so-and-so is asking for me, and is behind me, and they don't think I did it. But the main thing has been home, Aviemore has been amazing. I've friends, family and supporters behind me, and there is something like 130 pages of support on my website.

    AT: The public are behind you, the BOA are behind you - it's a shame that it had to happen to you.

    Exactly, It's a shame, but I think I've been made an example of.

    AT: And you think you have to take the punishment as a warning to others?

    For sure.

    Is the IOC right to take Alain Baxter's medal?



    2748 Votes Cast

    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion



    Science and detection
    See also:

    21 Mar 02 |  Alpine Skiing
    Baxter stripped of bronze
    21 Mar 02 |  Alpine Skiing
    Baxter: How I blew Olympic glory
    05 Mar 02 |  Alpine Skiing
    Methamphetamine: What is it?
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