Norwegian skiers are never guilty. Whatever they do.

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The skier Johaug crying of happiness after winning a race.

The media madness surrounding Johaug’s positive doping results reminds me of the lessons I learned during the Sotchi Winter Olympic games in February 2014. I had never been interested in cross country skiing on television, but during those games I understood the seriousness of this sport to Norwegians. I had not been in Norway for that long when the games started, and was not aware of the high sensitiveness that this topic generates among Norwegians. Sanna Sarromaa could have written a whole chapter about this in her book Norske tabuer, because criticising anything regarding the Norwegian skiing heroes is tabou in Norway. Even more than not liking fredagstaco and SKAM.

Langrenn makes Norwegians become irrational

Back in 2014 in Sotchi, the Norwegian skiers were losing, especially the male team who came back with zero gold medals. Pretty strange for the best langrenn skiing nation in the world don’t you think? It became much more entertaining when the media started accusing all sorts of external factors rather than the skiers themselves (who are the best in the world). Their skis were rotten. The Russian snow was bad. The wax was problematic. The head of the waxing team (also called smøresjef) was incompetent. Venus was not aligned with Jupiter but with Mars. In any case, there was probably a conspiracy against the Norwegian team. See Why do Norwegians lose it during the Winter Olympics?

Of course, as a foreigner, I thought the whole scandal was hilarious, and I came back to my office one day saying to my colleague Torbjørn:

“A conspiracy. Seriously! Haha. Of what kind? The Swedes have created a agency to make sure the Norwegians mix up their waxes and lose on the podiums?”.

“Det er ikke tull. Det er OL. Det er langrenn” he said with the most serious tone of voice. “Do you know how hard it is to wax skis?” he added.

“Okay. Wow. Where is your sense of humour?” I wanted to ask. Forget it.

Golden rule number 1: When it comes to langrenn competitions and their hero skiers, Norwegians have zero sense of humour. On the bright side, they have lots of sense of humour when talking about just anything else.

When relating to their skiers, Norwegians don’t just lose their sense of humour, they also lose their rationality. It can be because their team is repeatedly losing during international cross country skiing competitions like in Sotchi, to having their national heroes being tested positive in doping controls, like Sundby and Johaug. Norwegian media go crazy. They do things like go back to the same country where the accused product (a lip cream bought in Italy in the case of Johaug) was bought to take pictures of the box and write articles about it. Norwegian media is currently covering the Johaug doping case as if Lady Diana had just died again. When it comes to their skiers, no criticism ever allowed. Ever. It is never their fault, whatever they do. Norwegian skiers are always heroes. You don’t believe me? Take my test.

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Johaug crying of sadness and desperation after being tested positive for doping (allegedly because of a lip cream)

Test: How rational are you when thinking about the Norwegian skiers?

Imagine your reaction to these two situations as a Norwegian.

Situation 1: You are watching the Winter Olympic games, and the Norwegian skiing team is winning against the French. Your team gets in front of all the others, and gets the first spot on the podium. You get up, scream. VICTORY. NOOORRGGGEEE. You feel happy. You knew that the Norwegian skiers were the best in the world but you are happy to see it is proven once again to the world.

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Another skier, Sundby, very happy to win a race.

Then you see that the French team is blaming the quality of the snow, the wax, their smøresjef, the position of the stars and god knows what other bad excuse. You just laugh. Bad losers. We won, we are the best. We are Norwegians.

Situation 2: A French langrenn skier is tested positive for doping. Your potential first reaction: That would never happen in Norway. Our skiing environment is clean. He goes on national television with the face of someone who just saw his house burn to ashes with his whole family inside, and says that he bought a hemorroid cream in a pharmacy in Norway.

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Sundby after being tested positive for doping (allegedly because of an asthma medicine).

“I did not see that I could get tested positive for doping by using this” he says, crying on national television.
What do you think then? What an idiot. Can’t even read a package of a medicine with written “doping” crossed in red. By the way, Norway has the best hemorroid cream in the world. So I hope this French skier is not implying there was something wrong with our cream.

If you are a foreigner reading this, you are probably confused. When they are negotiating peace processes, Norwegians are calm and dignifying. When they are playing chess Norwegians are calm and focused. When they are managing their precious oil money Norwegians are pragmatic. But when relating to langrenn they lose it. They could start a diplomatic cold war with Italy for not writing the redd cross on “doping” big enough on the lip cream box. Or on a more serious tone, they can suddenly become arrogant for winning a competition, and forgiving and protecting its skiers like a parent protects her children. Even if they are stupid. Even if they are guilty.

Golden rules for a foreigner trying to relate to Norwegian cross country skiing heroes:

  1. Norwegian cross country skiers are the best in the world. If anybody wins against them it is because of a very good reason which is external and could not have been foreseen. Like a different quality snow. I mean seriously guys, why can’t the whole world have as good quality snow as in Norway?
  2. Norwegian sport environment is clean. The cleanest in the world. There is no doping in Norwegian sport, especially not in cross country skiing.
  3. If any test proves this wrong, there is a very reasonable reason that the test was positive, which usually involves medicine that Ola and Kari Nordmann take everyday, such as a lip cream, an asthma spray or vitaminbjørner. Journalists will also be looking at foreign conspiracy into this matter. “Wait a second, where did you say that cream was bought? In Italy!! Everyone knows the Italian system cannot be trusted, compared to the great Norwegian medical system. See, it’s not our fault!”
  4. Even if a skier is caught doing something that nobody can excuse, such as drunk driving like Northug, then Norwegians will always forgive the skier. Because he/she apologized on national television, cried, felt guilty, whipped himself a few more times than usual to really feel the pain, and came home the chin high and tears in the eyes. It is about the values.
  5. If the international langrenn competition is organised in Norway, that the skiers are caught with positive doping tests and that the rest loses, then maybe the patience and admiration Norwegians have for their hero skiers could be altered. But not sure.

Of course, there is a huge difference between losing a competition and being doped. Because losing is legal, while being proven to be doped can end your sports career. Losing and doping have one similarity though, and that is that Norwegians cannot accept either of those when it involves their langrenn skiers. Norwegians langrenn skiers are heroes. They are never guilty. And even if they are, we forgive them. If they lose it’s not their fault. And why is that? I believe that Norwegians as individuals have been taught to be humble, but as a nation they want to be proud. And as a small nation of 5 million inhabitants there are not so many things they can be the best in the world at. Langrenn is one of them. If a skier was really proven as doped, without a good excuse, then I believe it would be such a breach of moral codes in Norwegian society and sports miljø more specifically that this sports person would be extracised immediately. Even worse than a politician accepting to be corrupt.

While I really want Norwegians around me to feel proud and happy, I am a bit hurt in my ego of foreigner to see that whatever the Norwergians apply to their skiers does not apply to any sports person from anywhere else in the world. Open your eyes, please. Norwegians are not the best at everything. And yes, it might be that Johaug is not doped. Or Nordby. But this doubt you have for your own heroes, try to apply it to all of ours.

This article was published in the Norwegian newspaper VG on the 16th of October under the title Født med ski på hjernen.

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6 thoughts on “Norwegian skiers are never guilty. Whatever they do.

  1. Lovely article and well written. It could have been simply summarized into: “F*ck Norwegian skiers”, because I really do not care about Norwegian skiers or how Norwegians feel about it. I do not indulge the ignorant 😉

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  2. Well written. 🙂 You’re very brave 😀 Glad to see someone critique this crazy langrenn situation with common sense. It also happens down under in Australia. Every sport star is clean, nobody ever cheats, the rest of the world is to blame when things go wrong. In the real world, every athlete is responsible for their own body, and for checking what they’re ingesting. They make way too much money to complain or point the finger at someone else. Have never understood why the skier who was caught drunk driving never received any punishment. In any other universe, it would have ended differently. C’est la vie en Norvege! 😀

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  3. Yes, it’s not fair that Norwegians think no one else from another country is good as they. (gasp, Canada where I live 100 km. away from world class cross-country skiing site near the mountains. It was the site for 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary where x-country skiing had to be outside of city.)

    If they immigrated to Canada, they might learn a lesson or 2 about other people’s capabilities.

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  4. Youre very brave , ahem, maybe more like to be described as ‘nekat’ in indonesian language 😁, if you had stayed here you would remember that word, haha
    Greetings from bandung

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  5. Do you think it’s strange? Saying you hate cross-country skiing in Norway is like going to Paris and sit down at a restaurant and say really loud “people that drink red wine are gay”. Norway is the most winning country in the winter olympics of all time, and also Norway isn’t good in fotball. So cross-country and biathlon is our pride and sports we know we’re competing for gold in. So then of course the interest is also big, so the amount of self-irony when it comes to this is fairly small. It’s like you couldn’t expect anything but French people starting to throw their crossaints at you if you said something like that in Paris. And it IS hard to wax skis, actually it’s one of the most tedious and difficult aspects of skiing, it’s do or die for the athletes. And it’s not like Northug has such a big hero status at all as you try to make it sound, he still isn’t anywhere near the hero status of Bjørn Dæhli and Ole Einar Bjørndalen.

    And I guess many think like me that Northug really made a fool of himself by crashing like that and getting busted big-time, and also got disappointed. On average drunk driving is something you don’t exactly get popular for in Norway. But it’s not like he raped someone either. It’s not the world’s worst crime, and he didn’t actually hurt some innocent people. He just “shitted himself out” as we say in Norway. And I personally lost a lot of respect for him then. What are people supposed to do about it? There isn’t that much they can do. It’s the boss of the national team that decides on the athletes, it’s not the Norwegian people. In Norway the blood alcohol limit is only 0,2 %, while in France it’s 0,5. So obviously since Norway is a democracy, we actually have less acceptance for this than French people. It’s not exactly something you get popular by doing, and even if something COULD have happened, it didn’t happen.

    When it comes to the “drug cases” it really isn’t about heavy drugs at all. And the media in other countries that are jelly at Norway blow it out of porportions. Everyone are jealous at the Norwegian viking power, so they have to try to make up excuses and e.g. blame us for drugs. But look at Trondheim, not only do they have the best fotball team, they also have Northug and Marit Bjørgen, so they obviously have a great training community there. So it’s about skills, not drugs. No one has said Norwegians are the best in everything either, so where you’ve gotten that from is a good question. No Norwegian would e.g. say that Norwegians are the best in basketball. And why on earth should we rely on athletes in all other countries? Look at how many revelations there are, like in Russia. After all there are loads of drug tests on Norwegian athletes, so you just have to realize that Norway has some of the best conditions and knowledge bases in the world for this sport. It really isn’t a hard mathematical equation. In other countries they play fotball all year round which is not possible in Norway, except at set times in indoor halls. That’s not how you get great in fotball.

    People here like skiing, get over it.

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