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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid