ESPN Embarrasses Itself – Refuses To Do Drug Testing at X Games Oslo

February 23, 2016

The X Games Oslo start tomorrow in Norway. For the first time ever at an X Games, both summer and winter sports will be offered. Something that will not be offered is in-competition drug testing.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is justifiably troubled by this development and yesterday took the rare step of issuing a press release condemning this fact:

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WADA is aware that discussions between the organizers have been ongoing, but that agreement has not been reached to run an in-competition testing program for the five-day event.

“Whilst the X Games is an independent, privately-run event, it is still surprising and regrettable to learn that there will be no anti-doping testing program in place for athletes during the Games,” said WADA Director General, David Howman. “This sends the wrong message to athletes at a fragile time for clean sport worldwide.”

“WADA would like to echo the sentiments expressed by Anti-Doping Norway who are a very committed partner in the protection of clean athletes, and who, as the national anti-doping agency for Norway, are also deeply disappointed by the situation,” added Howman. 

“Norway is a signatory to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport and, as an event that receives public authority funding, we would expect the X Games to adopt a quality anti-doping program so that the athletes, and indeed the public, can have confidence in the competition.”

ESPN has refused to back down. The Sports Business Journal received the following statement from ESPN on the matter:

 “Since the beginning of this project, and in accordance with the agreement that is in place for X Games Oslo, we have consistently communicated that X Games is an independent event, with its own guidelines for competition and athlete participation. At X Games Oslo, the federations can operate as they have for 20 years at X Games events around the world and we are happy to provide accreditation and space for them to perform their normal ‘out of competition’ testing procedures. However, we are not prepared to change the X Games guidelines for participation at this time.”

International Olympic Committee Head Thomas Bach isn’t happy with ESPN’s stance as he said the following to

“We’re concerned about one issue. We have been informed this morning that there will be no anti-doping testing compliant with the WADA rules. You know the clear position of the IOC with regard to the protection of the clean athletes. We want to see the clean athletes protected in all sports events, so we will discuss this issue with WADA.”

Norway’s anti-doping chief, Anders Solheim, also is very unhappy.  “If they can’t make sure that everyone has equal opportunity to win in international sporting competition, I think it’s wrong for the City of Oslo to support X Games with NOK 42 million (USD 5 million),” Solheim told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday according to

Quick Thought #1: ESPN needs to get its act together

The bean counting in Bristol is very much starting to impact ESPN’s credibility. Laying off more than 300 executives and shutting down Grantland is regrettable, but refusing to pay for drug testing is inexcusable. The revelation that the X Games has never conducted its own drug testing is alarming. Considering that it’s been reported that the X Games Oslo are “heavily dependent on city of Oslo government support”, we hope in the future that all future bid cities insist on proper drug testing.

Discuss this topic in our fan forum: MB: ESPN is officially a joke – ESPN refusing to drug test at X Games Oslo.

Note, we have contacted ESPN and asked them for comment and will update this article if we hear back.