PFC vs. EPO?

PFC vs. EPO?

Posted by Pär Westerlind on

Is PCF becoming a bigger issue than EPO?

We have experienced a confusing process where FIS forced a decision too early to ban PFC flour C6 ski waxes in the "World Cup" competitions. Testing other lower class events will be carried out on a random basis! Does this sound promising?


The question is whether the preparations for making the decision to ban PFC flour waxes followed a protocol to ensure the possibility of competing on a fair basis where we can ensure that cheating is excluded before going out with an official decision to ban flour-based ski waxes. The process of banning flour-based waxes has created confusion among skiers and ski federations.


"Blood doping vs. Flour Ski Waxes"


Now we've put ourselves in a situation where flour waxes are at risk of becoming a bigger problem with EPO and blood doping. Who doesn't remember Johann Mühlegg from Salt Lake City in 2002 and the battle with Per Elofsson on 30km skating, or most recently when five skiers from Austria, Kazakhstan, and Estonia were arrested during an anti-doping raid during the Nordic skiing World Championships in the Austrian resort of Seefeld in 2019.


Now FIS is opening up for a situation where skiers can take the chance and cheat with PFC flour-based waxes, as we do not yet have a safe method to test whether skiers have used prohibited flour substances under their skis. We all know how great the positive effect flour has on improving the glide on grip wax and glide waxes. In some conditions, the result differs by up to several minutes, and then the result becomes the difference between getting on the podium or missing the top 25 positions in a competition.


During spring 2023 the management of Wasaloppet in Sweden announced that flour waxes are banned for the upcoming season and that they would test as many skis as they have to avoid participants cheating. Could you imagine the line of active skiers queuing after the finish line where the Wasaloppet organisation will have to test 15,000 pairs of skis and the organisational challenges they would face? All this is to rule out that participants have not cheated with the grip or glide wax.


"SNOOW is leading the Innovation of ECO Waxes!"


The work to develop ecologically sustainable glide waxes that glide as fast as or better than flour waxes continues, but we currently do not have a formula that outperforms flour waxes in all conditions. Has the time frame for preparing a shift where we leave flour waxes behind been too tight?


Our work within SNOOW is progressing with a focus on inventing ecological glide waxes that outperform flour-based glide waxes. We are well on our way, but we are not quite there at the moment. From there, we have put ourselves in an ethical situation where we risk athletes cheating in the World Cup during the coming winter season.


On the one hand, we grapple with ecological issues and nature and health, but on the other hand, we open up for cheating and unsportsmanlike behaviour. Is it ethical to offer flour waxes or not? We at SNOOW claim that from a sporting perspective, it is correct to offer flour waxes until the day when we have products that are proven to be better and faster than flour waxes, and or when we have been able to afford to build a secure control system where we can undoubtedly rule out cheating at all levels from youth to elite skiers.


What we know is that if you have an old flour waxed ski and before competition you add 2-3 layers of an flour-free wax the test machine gives a green light (approved). But the advantage on the old flour ski still remains as the tests shows. All active skiers know the issue and the weakness in the testing process. Where do we draw the line for cheating, green light from the test-machine or earlier in the waxing process?


Then we can highlight the group-pressure form the active skiers and the nations towards the waxing team and the waxing chef. Every one knows the discussion after a bad performance and when the skis did not live up tho the expectations from the active skier, or from media that did not experience the podium position as every one was wishing for. Who will take the blame if there is a red light (not approved skis)?


Another aspect that we are seeing is that to overcome the ban of flour based waxes the skiers need to invest heavy in the number of ski-pairs that they carry for a competition season. Now they need to use the stone grinder structures to a greater extent, so what was intended to simplify the waxing procedures and reduce the cost for the skiers, just made it more complex and more expensive. If you don't carry an A-sponsorship of skis the chance of you competing on the same terms became worse.


When we talk to involved people in the industry in Switzerland and in Sweden, it is clear that every party is sceptic to the approach from FIS and that the decision have ben made to fast. The time frame to find replacement substances for flour has not been given enough time, nor has the development of the test devices been secured with the most accurate technology.


We are still awaiting the final verdict from FIS concerning using PFC four-based ski waxes for the upcoming ski season 2023-24. Our standpoint at SNOOW is that we are not ready to ban flour-based waxes today. Right or wrong, let us know what you think?



Pär Westerlind
2023-08-13

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