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He is the son of Iain and Sue Baxter, who were both British Ski Team members, and was born in Edinburgh. He is named after the 70s French skiing star Alain Penz. At 16 years of age, he was selected to the British Alpine Ski Team in 1991, and he steadily worked his way through the world rankings, making the top 100 in time for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
Salt Lake City Olympics
In the Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002, Baxter made British Olympic history by becoming the first British skier to win a medal (Bronze) in alpine skiing. He sparked controversy at the time, by dying his hair with the Saltire cross of St Andrew: the flag of Scotland. The British Olympic Association ordered him to remove this symbol of his nationality, because they wanted to project an image of "Britishness", but the blue dye he used to try to obliterate the white saltire was a different shade, and the saltire pattern could still clearly be seen when he won his medal.
Alain returned home to Aviemore to a hero's welcome and a parade around the town in an open top bus.
A few days after his return home, Alain discovered that he had failed a drug test. His sample contained a trace amount of methamphetamine - albeit the inactive levorotary isomer of methamphetamine - levomethamphetamine (aka levMethamphetamine), an isomer with no significant stimulant properties. After an appeal, the IOC declared that Baxter was disqualified from the competition and he would have to return his medal. Reports suggested that Benjamin Raich (the Austrian athlete that received the medal following the IOC's decision), gave his bronze medal to Alain suggesting it was rightly his, but this has been denied by Baxter.
Baxter was able to confirm later that the trace had originated from a Vicks inhaler bought in the United States. He had been unaware that the contents were different from those found in the UK version. The International Ski Federation accepted his explanation and banned him for the minimum of 3 months.
International Ski Federation appeal
The British Ski and Snowboard Federation appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. The appeal was successful and his ban was overturned. This gave the Baxter camp great hope for the next appeal to have his medal returned.
The British Olympic Association assisted with, and publicly funded, an appeal against the loss of his medal. The basis of the appeal was that the form of methamphetamine in the USA Vicks levMethamphetamine is an inactive isomer of methamphetamine.
Strict liability doctrine
Strict liability doctrine athletes are liable if they inadvertently take any form of potentially performance enhancing substance, and a large number of athletes have lost medals as a result. Cold cures and other over the counter medicines are the most common sources of trace levels of amphetamines and other stimulants.
Medal appeal controversy
The medal appeal heard by the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Lausanne rested on whether levAmphetamine was performance enhancing Vicks and other expert witnesses explained that it was a decongestant, and had negligible stimulant properties. The quote was "you could take a bucket of it with minimal effect". Dr Don Catlin maintained that the banned list did not specify isomers so all forms were on the banned list and the strict liability doctrine applied. This was particularly controversial since 100 U.S. athletes who won 19 medals tested positive for stimulants at his laboratory, and were cleared to continue competing, and Dr. Catlin was named as part of a 3 man committee that routinely allowed U.S. Olympians such as Carl Lewis to continue competing despite failing drugs tests. The vast majority of athletes named in Wade Exum's papers tested positive for stimulants found in over-the-counter cold medicines. Most were cleared after explaining that they had taken the substances inadvertently.
The Baxter Appeal team headed by Professor Arnold Becket, a former member of the IOC medical commission, thought Dr Calin's position was "inconsistent". He stated, "The things we are being told about in the USA make me very angry, particularly in relation to Alain Baxter’s case. He did not take a banned substance, as levAmphetamine was not on the list, but it was Dr Catlin’s evidence which the appeal committee believed."
Baxter lost the appeal.
Ski racing results
While his form has never quite reached the same heights as they did in Salt Lake City, Alain Baxter is still the highest ranked and most recognisable male alpine skier in the UK. He was well respected by the more established skiing nations and his talent is the best the UK has ever produced.
He is also a keen player of shinty, and turned out for Kincraig Shinty Club when that club was still active. Alain won the 2005 British Superstars event, defeating Du'aine Ladejo who had edged Baxter out for the 2003 title. Alain made his debut on a track bike racing at Manchester Velodrome on 5 December 2009, at part of the Revolution (cycling series) - Season 6. He set himself a goal of racing in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 which he unfortunately did not achieve.
- Court of Arbitration for Sport decision
- Puzzling tale of US doping appeals
- US Track & Field Coverups
- Sports Illustrated - Claims cast suspicion on USOC drug policy
- USOC Drug Czar Dr Wade Exum says athletes were able to bend drug rules
- Alain Baxter at the International Ski Federation
- The Scottish Sun Interview with Alain Baxter