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1998 Winter Olympics Medical Scans

February 23, 1998


  • The German four-man bobsled team that won the gold medal on Saturday (Feb 21) went without food the week before competition, according to an Associated Press report. Because of sled weight requirements and the late addition of a 250-lb team member, the team had to lost 45 lb.

  • For the first time in the Winter Olympics, biathlon participants underwent blood tests for erythropoietin (EPO). According to an Agence France-Presse report, none of the 42 participants tested positive.

  • United States bobsledder Brian Shimer has had an ongoing hamstring strain, but it didn't impair his performance in the final four-man team event on Saturday (Feb 21). "My hamstring is the best it has been all year. After the first push, I knew it would hold up," said Shimer at a US Olympic Committee press conference after the race. Shimer's team came in fifth, just two hundredths of a second behind the bronze medal winners.

  • The Winter Paralympic Games will be held March 5 through 14 in Nagano, Japan. The games, for athletes who have visual and locomotive disabilities, will feature five sports: Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sledge hockey, and ice sledge racing. More than 580 athletes from 32 countries will participate; the US delegation consists of 50 athletes who will compete in three of the sports (Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and ice sledge hockey).

February 20, 1998


  • A Canadian bobsledder, Matt Hindle, sustained a shoulder laceration from falling debris Wednesday evening (Feb 18) at the Olympic Village, but is scheduled to compete in Friday's bobsled events, according to an Associated Press report. The injury reportedly required five stitches, and Hindle was not hospitalized. Hindle was hit by a pane of glass that fell from the veranda of the sixth floor of the village, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee.

  • The official physicians and athletic trainers for the United States athletes in the 1998 Paralympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, March 5 through March 14 are: Michael Burns, MD, a orthopedic surgeon in St Louis, who will serve as head physician; Cindy Chang, MD, a family physician in Berkeley, California; Lyda Garrison Norsworthy, ATC, of Clovis, California; David Kuhn, ATC, of Ft Wayne, Indiana; and Ed Ryan, ATC, of Colorado Springs, who will serve as medical coordinator.

  • The United States Olympic Committee recently launched a $5 million fundraising effort to boost sports medicine services for its athletes, according to the February/March issue of Olympic Beat. According to USOC President Bill Hybl, the SportsMed 2000 campaign "will ensure that the latest in health care systems, education, research methods, and technology are available to assist in the success of America's athletes in competition and in life."

February 19, 1998


  • The Associated Press reported that Olympic drug testing officials announced two more positive tests for marijuana use on Thursday (Feb 19), but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has declined to name the athletes or sports involved. Also on Thursday, an IOC working group met for the first time to draft a policy that will clear up confusion surrounding the status of marijuana testing, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee (NOOC).

  • Joe Sakic, a center for the Canadian men's hockey team, injured his knee Wednesday (Feb 19) during the team's victory over Kazakstan, according to a press release from the NOOC. Team physician Eric Babins, MD, said Sakic has a grade 2 sprain of his left medial collateral ligament and will be out for 2 to 6 weeks. The injury occurred when he collided with two other players, one of whom fell into the side of Sakic's knee. "I knew something was up as soon as I got hit. It wasn't that painful, but I certainly felt a pop," he said.

  • Austrian skier Stefan Eberharter, the silver medal winner in the men's giant slalom on Thursday (Feb 19), overcame several injuries to reach the winner's podium, according to a press release from the NOOC. He broke his clavicle in 1992 and tore a knee ligament in 1993, among other injuries. He missed the 1994 ski season and returned to the sport in 1995.

February 18, 1998


  • Eric Bergoust, an aerial freestyle skier for the United States, won a gold medal on Wednesday (Feb 18) despite a recent serious shoulder injury. According to a US Olympic Committee press release, Bergoust, age 28, crashed in early January while coming to a stop to inspect a jumping kicker before practice. He broke his clavicle in six places; his surgical repair required eight screws and a shank of cadaver bone. Physicians estimated that he'd be sidelined for about 8 weeks, but Bergoust went to the US Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, for rehabilitation and returned to skiing 4 weeks later. One week later he won a silver medal at the World Championships. "It was an opportunity to challenge myself to see how far I could push myself. It was extremely challenging mentally to see how well I could jump when I wasn't prepared," Bergoust said after his return to sport. "It's my biggest accomplishment to date."

  • Another United States aerial freestyle skier also won a gold medal on Wednesday (Feb 18) after rehabilitation from injury. Nikki Stone, age 27, had fought back from a back injury, according to a USOC press release. No other details about her injury were available. Visualizing a gold medal was helpful during rehab, Stone said at a press conference after her event: "When I got back in the gym, I just kept telling myself gold medal, gold medal, gold medal."

  • A Japanese daily paper, Yomiuri Shinbun, reported Wednesday (Feb 18) that a Canadian doping lab sent the International Olympic Committee a report suggesting that Canadian snowboard gold medalist Ross Rebagliati may have taken marijuana directly, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. Rebagliati had said that the last time he used marijuana was in April 1997 and that the positive test at the Olympics was due to passive smoke inhalation at his going away party in Canada. The lab's report said that the unusually high reading of the substance detected in the tests suggested that the athlete inhaled marijuana directly. The IOC repealed his medal, but the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (ICAS) reversed the IOC decision. The ICAS decision is not subject to review.

  • Amy Peterson, a 26-year-old United States speed skater, has overcome chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a press release from the USOC. Her 3,000-m relay team finished fifth on Tuesday (Feb 17). Peterson won two silver medals and one bronze medal in her 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympic appearances. Peterson will compete in the 500-m short track event on Thursday (Feb 19).

  • United States speed skater Kirstin Holum, age 17, was diagnosed as having exercise-induced asthma in October, according to a press release from the US Olympic Committee. To prevent asthma attacks, she wears a mask while competing to hold warm air in her lungs. She then cools down for 30 to 40 minutes on skates, then jogs for another 30 minutes. Holum finished sixth in the 3,000-m event on February 11—her time was a personal best. She is scheduled to compete in the 5,000-m event on Friday (Feb 20).

February 17, 1998


  • US ski jumper Mariano Ferrario fell during the men's aerial elimination competition Monday (Feb 16) and tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and ruptured his patellar tendon, according to a press release from the US Olympic Committee (USOC). He will return to the United States this week and will undergo surgery in Salt Lake City.

  • A flu outbreak that has taken its toll on many athletes appears to have peaked, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee (NOOC). Atsushi Sugiyama, deputy director of the clinic at the Olympic Village, said the flu was prevalent both inside and outside the Olympic Village. Symptoms have included sort throat, headache, and fever.

    Hiroshi Okudera, director of medical services for the NOOC said not all of the sick people have the flu; some have a less severe common cold. Among the athletes who have withdrawn from competition because of illness are Tanja Szewczenko, a German figure skater; Ulrike Adeberg, a German speed skater; Adne Sondral, a Norwegian speed skater; Cindy Overland, a Canadian speed skater, and Nina Kemppel, a US cross-country skier.

    Several other athletes have competed despite the flu, including Canadian figure skaters Elvis Stojko, Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon, and Luc Bradet. CBS television reported on Sunday night (Feb 15) during its Olympic coverage that 500 of its 1,700-member television crew were sick.

  • At a USOC press conference in Nagano on Saturday (Feb 14), Nicole Bobek, a US figure skater, says she has been bothered by an injury to her right hip flexor. "It has happened over the years. I have no pain right now," she said, adding that she missed opening ceremonies because of treatment for both the hip injury and bronchitis.

  • US figure skater Michael Weiss finished seventh in Olympic competition on Saturday (Feb 14), despite injuring his hip earlier in the week, according to a USOC press release. "I fell on my left hip and sustained a bone bruise as well as a muscle bruise," Weiss said. "I have been adjusting jumps, which has made other parts of my body hurt. I have a tightness on my right hip flexor now."

  • Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko skated in pain during his silver medal performance in men's competition on Saturday (Feb 14) because of a 6-week old groin injury that he aggravated during preliminaries earlier in the week, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. His trainer, Doug Leigh, said Stojko had a torn muscle and a pinched nerve. Leigh said that that skater had no pain-killer injections before his performance, but did get treatments to reduce inflammation in his groin area. No other details about his treatment were available.

February 13, 1998


  • Two skiers sustained crash injuries on the same sharp, icy turn on the men's downhill course on Friday (Feb 13), according to an Associated Press report. Hermann Maier, from Austria, suffered hip, shoulder, and head injuries. Luca Cattaneo, from Italy, tore his left Achilles tendon and was airlifted to a Nagano hospital by helicopter.

  • Two American athletes are recovering from lower-back strains. Hockey forward Shawn McEachern (Ottawa Senators) has been unable to compete so far and was replaced on Friday (Feb 13) by Jamie Langenbrunner (Dallas Stars), according to a press release from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). "Unfortunately, the injury to Shawn's lower back has not progressed to the point that our medical personnel felt he could be cleared to play," said Lou Lamoriello, the team's general manager. The press release did not say how he was injured. On Friday, downhill skier Kyle Rasmussen finished ninth in competition, despite having not trained for 8 days because of a lower-back strain. USOC trainers had been working with Rasmussen in physical therapy all week; he warmed up with the team on Saturday (Feb 7), but was unable to ski. He was injured in late January in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Rasmussen is scheduled to compete in the super G on Saturday (Feb 14).

  • Finland's Nordic ski team physician and manager were injured in a car accident on Friday (Feb 13) in Hakuba Village, the site of the games' ski events, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. Their car collided head-on with another car at 1:30 pm on a farm road near the village. The team manager, Esa Klinga, age 58, suffered chest injuries, and the physician, Antti Eskola, age 52, sustained minor injuries.

  • In light of the recent controversy over Ross Rebagliati, a Canadian snowboarder who tested positive for alleged marijuana use, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday (Feb 13) that it will form a working group to review its policy about marijuana use, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee.

  • Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko finished second in the men's short program on Thursday (Feb 12), despite a bout with the flu, according to a CBS telecast. The day of competition marked day three of the flu.

  • Jamil Kahn, a snowboarder who narrowly missed making the United States team, was killed by an avalanche on Wednesday (Feb 11) in the Sierra Mountains near Truckee, California, according to a press release from the United States Olympic Committee. Kahn, age 22, had been taking part in a filming session when he became caught in a snowslide and was buried for nearly an hour.

February 12, 1998


  • Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati will get to keep his gold medal, according to press releases from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. The International Court of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) on Thursday (Feb 12) overturned a decision by the International Olympic Committee to withdraw his medal based on a positive drug test for marijuana. The board ruled that there was no proper agreement between the International Olympic Committee and the International Ski Federation over testing procedures. The arbitrators added: "We do not suggest for a moment that the use of marijuana should be condoned, nor do we suggest that sports authorities are not entitled to exclude cannabis. But if sports authorities wish to add their own sanctions to those that are edicted by public authorities, they must do so in an explicit fashion."

    Marijuana is not on the IOC's banned list; however, it is on the ski federation's banned list. When the IOC drug tests an athlete, it typically tests for substances on its list and those that are banned by the federation of his or her sport. The ICAS was first used at the Atlanta games in 1996; it consists of independent arbitrators who have expertise in sports law.

  • Guo Hong, goalie for the Chinese women's hockey team, injured her hand during her team's win over Sweden on Thursday (Feb 12), according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. Her coach Zhang Zhinan said that a player stepped on it in front of the goal area. He said he did not know if Hong will be able to play in the team's next game.

  • Acupuncturists in Nagano are offering free treatment to Olympic athletes and officials, according to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. About 40 acupuncturists are offering their services at three clinics. "Acupuncture is free from drugs and side effects," said Susumu Koyama, a senior official of the Nagano Acupuncture Moxibustion Association. "We want athletes from home and abroad to understand that it is a safe method of treatment." Acupuncture is considered an alternative therapy in the United States. In November 1997, however, a National Institutes of Health consensus panel endorsed acupuncture for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.

February 11, 1998


  • Ross Rebagliati, who won a gold medal in the men's snowboard giant slalom on Sunday (Feb 8), tested positive for marijuana use and will lose his gold medal, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) Director General Francois Carrard, who made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday (Feb 11). According to a press release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee, Carrard said marijuana was detected in two urine samples; the second one confirmed 17.8 nanograms/mL. He was tested 45 minutes after his gold medal performance. Rebagliatti told the Canadian Olympic Association that the last time he used marijuana was in April 1997, but that he had spent a significant amount of time around other people using it. The IOC has no minimum amount set for substance infractions, but the International Ski Federation sets a 15 nanogram limit. The medical board and the IOC voted narrowly in favor of the sanctions. The decision is being appealed by the Canadian Olympic Association. The case is under review by the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (ICAS), and a decision is expected within 24 hours. Rebagliatti is the first athlete in the Nagano Olympics to test positive for a banned substance.

  • Bobsledder Mike Dionne, of the US team, is expected to be removed from his team by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on Wednesday (Feb 11) after denial of his appeal to have his banned-substance suspension rescinded, according to a press release from the USOC. In late November he tested positive for ephedrine, a substance banned by the International Olympic Committee; the source of the substance was said to be an over-the-counter cold medication. The International Federation for Bobsled and Toboggan ruled in January that he receive a 3-month suspension. In upholding the suspension on Tuesday (Feb 10), the International Court of Arbitration for Sports said that Dionne was not cheating but that the incident was an act of carelessness.

  • German pairs figure skaters Ingo Steuer and Mandy Woetzel won a bronze medal Tuesday night (Feb 10), despite Steuer's recent shoulder injury. According to reports from the Associated Press and CBS television, Steuer was clipped in December by the side mirror of a passing car; the injury tore ligaments in his right shoulder. The couple resumed practice only 2 weeks before the Olympics.

  • US figure skater Michelle Kwan missed opening ceremonies because she stayed in the United States to undergo therapy on her foot, according to a press release from the USOC. According to news reports, Kwan was sidelined for 3 weeks in December with a stress fracture of her left second toe. In a press conference on Tuesday (Feb 10), her coach, Frank Carroll, said that Kwan's foot is improving. "It is not completely healed yet, but it is much better than it was at nationals, and she is feeling better every day. I am pleased with that."

February 10, 1998


  • Gong Ming, who plays defense for the Chinese women's ice hockey team, injured her neck and back on Monday when she hit the boards with her right hip and shoulder, according to an Associated Press report. According to a team spokesperson, the injuries are not serious, though she may miss the team's next game.

  • There's usually nothing good to say a knee injury, but US speed skater Catherine Raney credits a knee injury for her switch from figure skating to speed skating, according to a press release from the United States Olympic Committee. She switched to speed skating after the knee injury prevented her from doing jumps.

  • Mike Peplinski, a member of the US curling team, will undergo kidney transplant surgery this summer, according to a February 2 report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 23-year-old middle school teacher from Eau Claire, Wisconsin has idiopathic membranous nephropathy. He was diagnosed with the condition 4 years ago when he was a college sophomore. He sought medical attention after noticing a bubble-like bulge at the bottom of his calf. Peplinski says he tires easily and must rest before and after curling sessions. The kidney donor will be his mother, Rita Peplinski.

February 9, 1998


  • Canadian biathlete Myriam Bedard, who won gold medals in the women's 15K and 7.5K events at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, has struggled in world competition since then because of hyperthyroidism, according to a February 9 Associated Press report. In the 15K women's event on Monday she finished 50th.

  • Yelena Berezhnaya, a Russian pairs skater, is competing despite a severe head injury in January 1996 that fractured her skull. According to Associated Press and CBS television reports, she and her former partner had been practicing side-by-side camel spins when her partner's blade struck her head.

  • Olympic medical officials are monitoring an influenza outbreak among Nagano children, according to a February 6 Reuters report. An estimated 1,325 children had what appeared to be the type A Hong Kong influenza. Physicians are concerned that the virus may spread to the athletes who may be exposed to the children's relatives who work in the Olympic Village.

  • American ski racer Kyle Rasmussen has been skipping practices because of muscle spasms resulting from a minor strain in his lower back, according to a February 7 Associated Press report. He was continuing physical therapy, which includes stretching exercise, according the US Alpine ski team press spokesperson Tom Kelly.

  • Team Canada player Paul Kariya, who plays for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks of the National Hockey League, may miss the Olympics because of a concussion he sustained during an NHL game on February 1 with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a February 7 Associated Press report.

  • Picabo Street of the United States will be competing in Alpine ski events, despite a crash during World Cup competition in Sweden on January 31, according to a news report from the US Ski Team. According to the team's physician Lincoln Avery, MD, she suffered a mild concussion and other minor injuries.

  • Medical officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be using a new test to detect elevated testosterone levels, according the a news release from the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. According to Prince Alexandre de Merode, chair of the IOC Medical Commission, the $460,000 carbon isotope machine can "in principle" distinguish between natural and synthetic testosterone. "We will know by the end of these Games (if it is valid)," he says. Athletes who test positive with the new equipment will be retested using the current gas chromatograph method. Some athletes take synthetic testosterone to build muscle.

February 6, 1998


  • An article in the February 2 issue of Sports Illustrated on ergogenic use of pseudoephedrine hydrochloride in the National Hockey League quotes two athletic trainers who estimate that 20% of players routinely take the medication before games. They reportedly take the medication to feel an energy boost; the drug is a sympathetic nervous system stimulant. In the article, Writer Michael Farber speculated that NHL players who are on the US men's hockey team face problems at the Olympics, where the substance is on the banned list. It is not banned in the NHL.

  • Athletes who have aches and pains might find some relief at the Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. According to the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee, the temple contains a shrine to Binzuru, Bhudda's disciple who was known for his medical expertise. Over the centuries, many have taken part in a healing ritual that consists of rubbing ashes from the shrine on the visitor's sore part and the corresponding part on the Binzuru statue.

  • Eastern medicine has a different view of how physicians should treat inflammation, according to the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee. In an eastern modality called moxibustion, a heated cone is placed on the inflamed area to induce sweating, then cooling from sweat evaporation. An eastern view of inflammation treatment is that when cold reaches its peak, it turns to heat; when heat reaches its peak, it turns to cold.