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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs