20 years ago, the German-Spaniard Johann Mühlegg was responsible for the biggest doping scandal that has ever hit a Winter Olympics.
It was part of the flame inside me that died after that championship
During the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, he was superior and took gold at the start of the hunt and 30 kilometers. On the last day of the games, Mühlegg crossed the finish line first at five miles, but after the race he was disqualified after testing positive for the drug Darbepoetin alfa, a new version of EPO (blood doping). As the drug was new, it was not on the list of banned substances.
Almost two years after the Olympics, in December 2003, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that Mühlegg had to be deprived of all the gold medals he won during the Olympics.
This led, among other things, to the Norwegian cross-country skiers, Frode Estil and Thomas Alsgaard, each receiving their own gold medal in the mail. They were judged equally at the start of the hunt.
– It was a championship I was very happy with. I looked forward to soaking up the caramel and enjoying good days when I got home, but all the focus was on doping and Johann Mühlegg. You will get fed up with that. It was part of the flame inside me that died after that championship, says Frode Estil 20 years later.
Estil: – It’s never fun to get a medal afterwards
Thrown a curse on the coach
Even before the doping scandal, Mühlegg was notorious. Back in 1993, he appointed the then national team manager Peter Zipfel a witch. The skier threw what he thought was a curse on the coach, and said that he should poison the drinks with the help of evil thoughts, and that by drinking holy water he would lift the curse, writes Image.
The conflict led to the German Ski Association getting enough of Mühlegg, and in 1998 he was refused to go more for Germany. Mühlegg was simply thrown out.
The cross-country skier joined Spain, and a few years later came the much talked about doping scandal.
After the scandal, Mühlegg went underground. He fled Europe and settled in the Brazilian seaside resort of Natal. Since then, the controversial practitioner has refused to talk about the doping scandal.
In an interview with it German major newspaper Bild however, Mühlegg’s mother now takes the magazine from her mouth and tells about the former skier’s new life in Brazil.
The mother Magdalena Eiband (81) reveals that her son has lived in Natal for 17 years, and has not been home in Germany for eight years.
Tells about Mühlegg’s new life
Mühlegg has turned 51 years old, and has married a Brazilian woman who is a professor of chemistry. They have a daughter together for nine years, and the German-Spaniard supports the family by owning and running a company in the construction industry that has 15 employees.
– Half of the employees are illiterate, none of them can drive a car. So Johann has to do almost everything himself. He trained the staff himself. He has a hard life. But he struggles through it. And the employees love him, says Eiband Image.
Johann learned everything himself, without any proper vocational training
The mother further says that she visited her son and his family in January this year. At the same time, she states that Mühlegg has never taken any education in the builder profession. It was a former cross-country skiing colleague from Italy who taught him how to build a house.
– Masonry, laying and covering the roof, bending iron, painting, adding water and electricity. Johann learned everything himself, without any proper vocational training, says his mother proudly interviewed.
The media hunted for Mühlegg for years to get him to comment on what happened at the Olympics in 2002. From 2006, no one had seen him, despite the fact that several newspapers put in great resources to get him to speak.
Revealed the residence only in 2014
Only in 2014 did the Swedish newspaper succeed Expressen to find out more about the whereabouts of the adopted practitioner, after visiting his family home in the German village of Grainau. Then they were informed that Mühlegg had moved abroad.
– Johann lives abroad, but I do not want to say where. He has changed his life. He has new family, new friends, and his own company. My brother has said to me several times: “I will never talk to journalists again”, brother Martin told the newspaper at the time.
My brother has said to me several times: “I will never talk to journalists again”
By chance, Expressen’s World Cup reporter found his address while he was actually at work covering the World Cup. Mühlegg was then in a legal dispute in Brazil after buying a forced sale apartment in Natal. Through the court documents, Expressen found the address, and sought out Mühlegg at home in Natal.
They were invited into the home of the German-Spaniard, who also received a Brazilian passport in 2015. But he refused to be interviewed.
– I’m very surprised you’re here. But ok, I do not want to talk about what has been. I have put all that behind me, was all Mühlegg wanted to say Expressen when the newspaper surprised him in his home.
While Mühlegg still refuses to talk about the doping scandal 20 years ago, it has left deep scars on his former competitors.
At the start of the hunt, it was impossible to distinguish who was first of Thomas Alsgaard and Frode Estil. When Mühlegg fell into the doping trap, Estil received her only individual Olympic gold in the mail.
This was not how the now 48-year-old former cross-country profile from Norway wanted to win the gold.
When serious cases of cheating appear, you feel that some of the meaning of the project falls away
– My main driving force has all the way been sports enjoyment and being able to do what you think is the coolest thing you know. When serious cases of cheating appear, you feel that some of the meaning of the project falls away and the joy is completely gone. It probably affected a bit of the spark and motivation of both me and the others who were in Lahti and Salt Lake, says Estil in Anti-dopingpodden.
For Estil makes no secret of the fact that the experience surrounding Mühlegg’s doping scandal, and what happened afterwards, still characterizes him.
– Now I have got a pretty solid distance from my skiing career and I must emphasize that I achieved much more than I thought I would do. But it would have been fun to be remembered for the good races I actually did, and not the one who got a lot of medals afterwards because someone cheated, Estil admits.