Alain Baxter

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Alain Baxter (born 26 December 1973) is a professional Scottish skier who specialises in the slalom discipline. He is best known for failing a drug test after finishing third in the men's slalom of the 2002 Winter Olympics, resulting in him being controversially stripped of the bronze medal.


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[edit]

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.

Medal controversy[edit]

A few days after his return home, Alain discovered that he had failed a drug test. His sample contained a trace amount of levomethamphetamine, an levorotary isomer of the banned stimulant methamphetamine. Although levMethamphetamine had no significant stimulant properties, he was sanctioned by the IOC. Following an unsuccessful appeal, Baxter was disqualified and told to return his medal. The Alpine bronze was then awarded to Austrian Benjamin Raich. Baxter later proved the source of levMethamphetamine was from a Vicks inhaler that he had used 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.

Although reports suggested that Raich gave his bronze medal back to Baxter, suggesting it was rightly his, this has been denied by Baxter.[1]

International Ski Federation appeal[edit]

The British Ski and Snowboard Federation appealed to the Court of Arbitration for 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.

Olympic appeal[edit]

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.[2]

Strict liability doctrine[edit]

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[edit]

The medal appeal heard by the Court of Arbitration for 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 US 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 US Olympians such as Carl Lewis to continue competing despite failing drugs tests.[3][4] 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.[5][6]

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.[2]

Ski racing results[edit]

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.

His best result in World Cup is 4th at Åre 11 March 2001 and he had 3 other top 10 finishes in 2001.[7]

His brother, Noel Baxter is also an alpine skier. His cousin Lesley McKenna is a leading professional snowboarder and winner of two World Cups.

Other sports[edit]

He is also a keen player of shinty, and turned out for Kincraig Shinty Club when that club was still active.[8] 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.[9]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b "Court of Arbitration for Sport decision" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Puzzling tale of US doping appeals". The Scotsman. 27 April 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  4. ^ US Track & Field Coverups Archived 7 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Claims cast suspicion on USOC drug policy". Sports Illustrated. 18 April 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "USOC Drug Czar Dr Wade Exum says athletes were able to bend drug rules". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Alain Baxter at the International Ski Federation
  8. ^ "Alba – Airsplaoid". BBC. 26 December 1973. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Scottish Sun Interview with Alain Baxter". The Sun. United Kingdom. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 

External links[edit]