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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK

Highs and lows of the Highlander

BBC Sport Online profiles British skier Alain Baxter, who has been stripped of his Olympic bronze medal after failing a drugs test.

Alain Baxter's Olympic bronze medal completed a meteoric rise to the top level of his sport.

The 28-year-old Scot came home a surprise third in the men's slalom in Salt Lake City.

It was a shock result because he came into the Games on the back of a less than impressive World Cup campaign.

But a bigger bombshell came with the news he has failed a drugs test.

Baxter produced a positive sample for the prohibited substance methamphetamine, which he later said he had inadvertently taken via a Vicks nasal stick.

Despite his protestations, the International Olympic Committee's executive board decided on to strip the Scot of his medal.

Prior to last season, Baxter, nicknamed the Highlander, had cut a less than remarkable career for more than a decade.

Baxter's skiing career has quite literally been a labour of love.

In order to pay his way around the sport's circuit he took any work on offer, the majority of it being odd jobs of the manual kind.

Baxter factfile
Born: 26.12.73, Edinburgh
Home town: Aviemore
Club: Caingorm
Years on British team: 10
Nickname: The Highlander
Coach: Christian Schwalger

That was until he enjoyed the best ever finish by a British skier in 19 years during last season's World Cup campaign.

After struggling on the slopes for a number of years, Baxter made a number of changes.

He teamed up with Austrian coach Christian Schwaiger, got a new sponsor and changed his skis in an attempt to increase his speed.

In addition, he developed his technique to maximise a new style and worked on his fitness to help develop the physique of a slalom specialist.

The benefits were instant.

In a campaign during which he scored a point in every slalom race, Baxter came home fourth in Are, Sweden.

He had started the season hoping to break into the top 30, but finished it ranked 11th.

Then he claimed Britain's first ever Olympic medal in the sport.

Baxter, who splits his time between France, Cairngorm and the British Olympic Association's training centre in Austria, has excellent skiing credentials.

His half-brother Noel competes for Team GB, and his cousin, Lesley McKenna, was also at the Olympics for the snowboard half-pipe.

What is more, his parents named him after 1970s ski legend Alain Penz.

The Frenchman may have enjoyed great success during the formative years of the World Cup, but not even he could boast an Olympic medal.

Baxter did have that claim if only briefly before being stripped of his medal.


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