News / USA

Hair Loss Motivates US Skeleton Racer Zach Lund

Multimedia

Audio

American Zach Lund, 30, has for years been one of the best luge and skeleton racers in the world.  But in 2006 his talent and chance for Olympic gold were suddenly overshadowed by his thinning hair.  VOA's Jim Stevenson has this profile of Lund, and his unusual journey to clear his name and seek another chance at Olympic glory.

 Zach Lund is eager to prove that he is the best - not to himself, but to everyone else.  "To me in my heart, I know I am an Olympian.  I know what I have accomplished already.  If you ask me right now I say, 'Yes, I am.'  Am I, officially?  No," Lund said.

After 54 years, skeleton returned to the Olympics in 2002, and athletes again braved the dangers of sliding head first on a small, simple sled at numbing speeds down a long and twisting track of ice.  A former luge competitor, Zach Lund barely missed being a part of the U.S. Skeleton Team that year.  But before the 2006 Games in Turin, he was the best U.S. chance for gold as the world's top ranked slider.

Lund was finally on the sport's biggest stage, only to miss his opportunity by a whisker, or more appropriately, by the remaining hair on his head.

Lund had tested positive for finasteride, a substance that was in the hair restoration product he was using.  He was unaware it had been added to the list of prohibited substances in 2005, and said he had declared its use on the doping control form he submitted for every drug test.

Because finasteride was considered a steroid masking agent, Lund was given a one-year suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  The decision came just before the Turin Opening Ceremonies.  With no immediate recourse, Lund voluntarily surrendered his Olympic credential and left the Olympic Village after an unsuccessful appeal.

Canadian Dick Pound was the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at the time, and Canada had several top skeleton racers.  Lund believes motivations other than doping enforcement may have led to his ouster.

"I happened to be number-one in the world," he recalled.  "And it happened to be a few people behind me were of a certain nationality.  And with me out of the way, it makes sense.  And it so happens that country won gold and silver.  That is why I feel it happened."

The CAS panel of three arbiters appeared sympathetic with his argument and said it was "entirely satisfied that Mr. Lund was not a [drug] cheat."  But WADA stressed that athletes are responsible to know what substances are on the prohibited list.

Lund continued to fight his case.  While he says the process is still far from perfect, some change has come as a result of his situation.

"So at least now, if someone is taking something and they do not know it like I was, at least know they will get a phone call," he explained.  "Because if I got a phone call that year that said 'this is in your form, but it is not coming up on your test.  That is illegal.  You need to stop.'  Then this would have never happened."

Lund was determined to regain his competitive stature.  He won the World Cup overall title in 2007 by claiming four of eight races and setting the track record at the Olympic course in Turin exactly one year after his ordeal began.

Then in 2008, finasteride was removed from the list of banned substances.  Instead of celebrating, Lund's anger grew because he felt the anti-doping agency had not done its job in the first place.

"That was a huge kick in the gut last year," he added.  "To know in my heart that I was not going to cheat.  To know that I made an honest mistake.  To know that I did nothing wrong.  I won my case, but I still had those certain people in the media who still say that, 'He is a cheater.'"

Even with finasteride no longer banned, the sting of accusations lingered and dominated his thoughts.  Lund asked WADA to clear his record.  But he says his request was ignored, and he subsequently lost interest in racing.  His world ranking plummeted.

Eventually, with a close friend's encouragement, Lund began training hard again.  He is currently near the top 10 in the world standings.  And he has shaved his head.  Gone with his hair is the vanity that led to his unintended journey. 

Zach Lund is ready for the Vancouver Olympics.  His ultimate vindication may come from winning a medal in Canada, or simply from the knowledge that by competing he is a true Olympian.


Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid