ESPN Pushing Ahead With X Games Oslo Despite Criticism Of Drug-Testing Policy
ESPN is pushing back against critics from Norway's anti-doping agency and the IOC over its lack of drug testing at X Games Oslo, set to begin Wednesday. The late-breaking dispute will not prevent the event from unfolding as planned, but is nonetheless a headache for the action sports property in its first foray back into international markets since its failed Global X Games in '13. It could affect funding for return trips to Oslo. Over the weekend, the Norwegian Ski Federation pulled out of its agreement with TV 2, the local operator of the event under a licensing agreement. It cited the event’s lack of official drug testing protocols. IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday also criticized the X Games at a press conference, according to trade publication Around the Rings. The Norwegian anti-doping chief also called on the city of Oslo to pull public funding.
STAYING THE COURSE: ESPN says the Oslo event is business as usual. X Games has never drug tested its participants, and this week’s event was always planned as an independent contest not bound by World-Anti Doping Agency rules. “Since the beginning of this project, and in accordance with the agreement that is in place for X Games Oslo, we have consistently communicated that X Games is an independent event, with its own guidelines for competition and athlete participation,” ESPN said in a statement. "At X Games Oslo, the federations can operate as they have for 20 years at X Games events around the world and we are happy to provide accreditation and space for them to perform their normal ‘out of competition’ testing procedures. However, we are not prepared to change the X Games guidelines for participation at this time.” TV 2 today said the event will go on as planned. The ski federation did not actually ask its athletes to drop out of the event. However, this issue may persist beyond this week -- the event’s financing is heavily dependent on city of Oslo government support, which would require approval again from Oslo politicians if the event returns in 2017. X Games Oslo runs through Sunday.