GB alpine skiers still affected by Alain Baxter's stripped medal

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Dave Ryding wants 'special' Olympic ski success
Saturday Sportsday
Watch the Dave Ryding interview on Saturday Sportsday, 16 January, BBC One 12:50 GMT

British alpine skiers would not have endured more than a decade of financial struggles had Alain Baxter been allowed to keep his 2002 Olympic bronze medal.

That is the view of current GB skier Dave Ryding, who is in career-best formexternal-link despite receiving no UK Sport funding.

Baxter was stripped of GB's first-ever Olympic medal on the snow after testing positive for a banned substance.

"Sponsors would have lined up for the team and what happened was a travesty," Ryding told BBC Sport.

"It was so unlucky with the [banned substance in the] Vicks inhaler and I really think Baxter and the GB team would have been able to kick on from there, but for the decision."

Alain Baxter
Baxter would have been the first Briton to win an Olympic medal on the snow - but was stripped of the honour

What impact did the decision have on British skiers?

Despite losing their first ever Olympic medal, the British ski and snowboard team had their UK Sport funding boosted from £185,000 to over £1.9m leading into the following Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.

Baxter competed in Italy, finishing a credible 16th, but other disappointing results saw UK Sport's support for the federation drop to £620,000 and just before the 2010 Games in Vancouver began, Snowsport GB was declared bankrupt.

"My parents had to sacrifice so much when I was younger as support was always difficult to find," said Ryding, who made his Olympic debut in 2010.

"Coming into Vancouver is where everything totally shut down. There was no federation and yes we managed to go there and represent GB, but the preparation was poor and it was stressful."

Why was Baxter's case controversial?
Doping tests after the 2002 men's slalom competition revealed that Baxter's sample contained a trace amount of the banned substance methamphetamine.
The substance is a 'mood enhancer' but is said to have no significant stimulant properties.
Baxter successfully argued it had been accidently taken - with the skier unaware that the drug was included in the make-up of US Vicks Vapour inhalers, as it was not present in the UK version.
However, while the skier would escape with a three-month ban from competition, the medal was awarded to Austrian Benjamin Raich.

Worse would follow, with UK Sport removing all support for alpine skiing after the 2010 Olympics, meaning skiers have relied entirely on sponsors since.

"[Main GB sponsor] Delancey has been huge for us because without chairman Sir John Ritblat, who's been a long-standing supporter, we literally wouldn't have a programme," said Ryding.

"I can honestly say without him and my private sponsors and the generosity of other people, I wouldn't be here today."

Dave Ryding
Ryding is targeting a top-10 finish at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea

Why is Ryding in career-best form?

Ryding himself insists there is "no secret" but hard work behind his recent success, which includes a 12th place at the Val d'Isere World Cup in France and 13th in Santa Caterina, Italy.

The 29-year-old does feel that steadily increasing the exercises he does off the slopes is playing a role though.

"Vancouver was very much an experience and I was honestly crushed by the big guys, so that made me realise I needed to put more hours in the gym," he said.

"In Sochi I finished 17th and I'm now at that age where I'm coming into my prime as a slalom skier, so I feel like I'm in a good position now to mix it with the best guys," he said.

Will UK Sport support GB alpine skiers soon?

UK Sport's strict funding model means it will only provide funding to sports that convince it they have the potential to challenge for Olympic medals at either of the next two Games.

At present all of the current financial support from UK Sport is directed towards freestyle skiing and snowboarding, following Jenny Jones' 2014 bronze and a number of promising performances from young athletes.

Ryding, though, is refusing to give up hope of a long-awaited reprieve for the alpine programme.

"The success of freestyle has put Britain back on the winter sports map, it's getting people on skis and hopefully with myself and Alex [Tilley] pushing on, more people will head to alpine," he said.

Britain's Jones wins historic bronze medal

"The new federation has come in and I'm 100% happy with the direction we're going in.

"We don't get UK Sport funding yet, but hopefully this season we could change that and I'm almost certain that we can mix it with the leading nations."

There are still over two years until the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but the Lancashire-raised skier is already thinking about the Games.

"If I keep building, I am sure I can go top 10 and if you're ranked up there then on the day anything can happen," he said.

"There are so many conditions and variables but if they align for you and I keep working and loving the sport then I can do something special."

Alpine skier Alex Tilley wants to fly flag for GB women

Top Stories