Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lindsey Vonn's Red Bull Doping Doctor Connection

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 The story about Lindsey Vonn's connection with Dr. Bernd Pansold, who was extensively involved in East Germany's mass doping program, has already been reported by the others. Dr. Pansold runs Red Bull's special training center in Thalgau, Austria, where Vonn trains twice a year. We are not implying that Vonn is doping, because she has never tested positive for banned substances. But there is something suspicious about one of the top racers in the World Cup training at a center run by a doctor from the East German sports program. While the New York Daily News beat us to Dr. Pansold himself, one of our intrepid reporters was able to find a trainer who recently resigned from the Red Bull center. Because of fear of reprisal from Red Bull, we are calling the trainer "Jan." Let's find out what Jan has to say.

BB: How long did you work at the Red Bull training center?
Jan: I would rather not say. Red Bull hires some very deadly hit men and I don't want to be one of their victims. Suffice it to say I was there long enough to know what was happening.
BB: Fair enough. Did you ever work directly with Lindsey?
Jan: No, I was not assigned to the skiers. Lindsey had a special private trainer that Red Bull provided.
BB: Can you say why you left the Thalgau center?
Jan: I was hired as a strength and conditioning coach for a national curling team. I don't wish to say which one. 
BB: Tell our readers why the Red Bull training center is in a shabby-looking building. You would think that Red Bull could afford a gleaming new facility.
Jan: The athletes who train here are very famous and don't want paparazzi stalking them while they are working out. A nice-looking building would stick out and fans and the media would prevent the athletes from concentrating on their workouts. A sinister-looking building keeps people away. The particular building where the center is located actually reminds Dr. Pansold of his old home in the former East Germany.
BB: Other famous skiers have consulted Dr. Pansold, most notably Hermann Maier and Maria Hoefl-Riesch.
Jan: That's true. Hermann consulted with Dr. Pansold because he was so small. In fact, he got thrown off the Austrian junior team for being too small. But after seeing Dr. Pansold, he suddenly got bigger and was able to make the team. The official story is that he built his body working as a bricklayer's apprentice. After Hermann's experience with Dr. Pansold and his associates, the Austrian skiers were told to avoid him.
BB: And what about Maria Hoefl-Riesch?
Jan: When she saw Dr. Pansold, she was very tiny--about the same size as Tina Weirather or Lara Gut. Afterward, she was almost as tall as she is now. But it turned out that her visits to Dr. Pansold coincided with her adolescent growth spurt and her height is due solely to genetics. But she did tell her parents that Dr. Pansold was creepy and didn't want to see him again.
BB: I see. Why would Red Bull hire a doctor who was an integral part of the East German doping program and who also spent time in jail for his role in it?
Jan: He needed a job and was willing to work for less than a Western German or Austrian doctor. He was a real bargain.
BB: Did the US Ski Team know about Dr. Pansold's past when they found out that Lindsey was training in Thalgau?
Jan: Evidently not. Even if the US Ski Team knew about Dr. Pansold, there is no way it could have overriden Red Bull. Lindsey is one of Red Bull's top athletes. Whatever she wants, she gets from Red Bull.
BB: Did you ever see any evidence of doping when you worked at the training center?
Jan: I did not see any direct doping like the trainers handing pills to the athletes or doctors giving them injections. But I noticed almost right away that the athletes were required to drink Red Bull from cans that were kept in a special refrigerator. They were not allowed to drink anything except for that Red Bull. I thought that was rather odd. Most athletes have their preferred mixes of sports drinks, but those were forbidden at the Thalgau center.
BB: Even Lindsey had to drink that special Red Bull?
Jan: That's right. Even though she was drinking lots of Red Bull, she still never tested positive on a doping test.
BB: Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones also never tested positive on their drug tests. They were also involved with doctors associated with doping, especially Armstrong. Their doctors used a special balance of various performance enhancers which were undetectable in standard drug tests. Dr. Pansold was also involved in ensuring that his athletes passed their doping tests when he worked with the East German sports program.
Jan: You are correct. Even though Lindsey has never had a positive drug test, her association with Dr. Pansold and his clinic is disturbing and should be investigated. Dr. Pansold not only helped to give steroids to young athletes, he also helped devise formulas to mask them. Even though Lindsey says that she is clean, it seems strange that she is training at a clinic run by someone who was heavily involved with doping whole sports teams. There are a lot of parallels between Lindsey and Lance Armstrong.
BB: What is the official purpose of the Thalgau training center?
Jan: Athletes sponsored by Red Bull go there to find ways to maximize their performance. Our trainers do a lot of physiological testing of the athletes. The doctors and trainers then devise individual training programs based on the test results to help reduce buildup of lactic acid, increase muscular strength and aerobic endurance, and learn to drink large quantities of Red Bull without vomiting. For many athletes, the last thing was the hardest. Have you ever had Red Bull? It tastes vile!
BB: I had Red Bull once and I can tell you that I would rather drink water from the toilet. Anyway, as a trainer, were you also required to drink from the special stock of Red Bull?
Jan: No, but I was supposed to drink the regular Red Bull. But I would go into the bathroom, pour the Red Bull down the sink, then fill the can with water. A lot of the other trainers did the same thing.
BB: Have any of the trainers tried the special Red Bull?
Jan: One of the female trainers did because we ran out of Red Bull in the employee refrigerator. After finishing the can, she was able to lift twice her body weight with one hand. I can only imagine how strong she would have been if she only drank the athletes' Red Bull.
BB: Let's get back to Lindsey's association with Dr. Pansold. One of her spokesmen said that she never sees him when she comes to the training center. But the doctor described her as a nice girl. What is the real story?
Jan: Lindsey and the doctor definitely know each other. He treats her to lunch at a local guesthouse whenever she comes to Thalgau. I don't know what they talk about because their lunches are private. Even her personal trainer from the center is not invited.
BB: You said before that the US Ski Team apparently did not know about Dr. Pansold's past. Did Lindsey know about his role with the East German swimmers and track and field team? 
Jan: Lindsey is very sheltered from the real world. She only knows training, racing, and red carpet events. I would be very surprised if she knew anything about Dr. Pansold's past.
BB: Wasn't she the least bit curious about the pictures of teenaged female East German swimmers and track stars on the training center walls? Some of the 15-year-old girls in those photos have more facial hair than Santa Claus and more chest hair than a chimpanzee. 
Jan: Evidently not. In fact, she worked out extra hard to try and get as many muscles as the women in the photos. She also drank more Red Bull than any of the other athletes at the center.
BB: Didn't some of the other trainers and doctors at the Red Bull training center work with Tour de France cyclists and Chinese runners of the 1990s?
Jan: Yes. They joined after the cyclists they worked with were serving bans for doping. The trainers who worked with the Chinese women's track team also joined the Thalgau center after the Chinese women were stripped of their records and medals because of the "special fungus" they were eating.
BB: And that didn't raise any red flags among Lindsey's other trainers from the US Ski Team?
Jan: No. Her coaches on the US Ski Team were happy that Red Bull was taking over some of her training so they could concentrate on the other women on the team.
BB: In the interest of fairness, we wanted to talk to Lindsey to get her side of the story. But she has refused to provide any statements or comments. Do you think that her refusal to comment on this story is an admission of guilt?
Jan: With other athletes, refusal to comment implies guilt. But Lindsey is different. She is spending a lot of time going to red carpet events. In addition, she had to find her way back to Tiger's house without using a navigation system after dropping his kids off at school. She and her father are also preparing her case in her upcoming lawsuit against Slovenia. As you can see, her mind is occupied with other things.
BB: Do you think that Red Bull would give Lindsey performance enhancing drugs because it wants her to win at all costs? After all, Red Bull is spending a lot of money on her and wants a return on its investment. 
Jan: Red Bull has spent a lot of money on Lindsey and expects her to win big. Her fans in the States also expect her to win gold medals in Sochi next year. A silver or bronze medal in Sochi won't be good enough; she must win gold. If it takes an East German who was involved with doping teenage girls to help Lindsey get a gold medal or two, then so be it. Red Bull will do anything it takes to ensure that Lindsey wins at least one gold medal in Sochi.
BB: Jan, thank you for your time. I wish you success in your new job. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

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