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Alain Baxter (born 26 December 1973) is a British skier who was formerly a professional specialising in the slalom discipline. He is best known for failing a drug test after finishing third in the men's slalom of the 2002 Winter Olympics, resulting in him being controversially stripped of the bronze medal; he would have become the first Briton to win an Olympic medal in a skiing event. The use of a nasal inhaler purchased in the US had led to the presence of a banned substance in Baxter's urine. He was allowed to return to competition, although his appeal to have the medal reinstated failed. He competed in FIS events from 1991–2009 and became known as "The Highlander". In the World Cup events, he achieved eleven top-fifteen finishes and four top-ten results.

Alain Baxter
Alpine skier 
Born (1973-12-26) 26 December 1973 (age 45)
Edinburgh, Scotland
World Cup debut1996



Baxter was born on 26 December 1973 in Edinburgh, Scotland.[1] He is the son of Iain and Sue Baxter, who were both British Ski Team members. Baxter's father named him after Alan Breck Stewart, a character from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped, who was a rebellious Highlander.[2] The French spelling led some to believe he was named after the 70s French skiing star Alain Penz.[3] At 16 years of age, he was selected to the British Alpine Ski Team in 1991.[4] Baxter's first 10 years of competition were achieved without him having access to any significant funding.[5] Austrian journalists gave him the sobriquet "The Highlander".[6] He steadily worked his way through the world rankings, making the top 100 in time for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.[7] At Nagano he straddled a gate and was disqualified, having been 15th-fastest at the checkpoint just before.[8]

His best result in World Cup was 4th at Åre 11 March 2001 and he had three other top 10 finishes in 2001.[9] In 2001, at Wengen he finished seventh in the World Cup Slalom, the best performance by a Britain at the Swiss resort.[10]

Ahead of the Olympics, ski technology was developing rapidly and Baxter's sponsor Head, was struggling to keep up the progress made by other ski manufacturers.[8]

Salt Lake City OlympicsEdit

In the Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002, Baxter made British Olympic history on 23 February by becoming the first British skier to win a medal (Bronze) in alpine skiing.[11] In the men's slalom, Baxter was in eighth place in the first run, then rose to third after the second run.[12] Before the competition he had dyed his hair in the pattern of the Saltire cross of St Andrew: the flag of Scotland.[13] The British Olympic Association (BOA) ordered him to remove the political symbol, but the blue dye he used to try to obliterate the white saltire was a different shade, and the saltire pattern could still clearly be seen when he won his medal.[14]

Medal controversyEdit

On 1 March, as he was leaving the Olympic village to return home, Baxter was informed by the BOA that a sample he submitted has tested positive for a restricted substance.[15] Baxter returned home to Aviemore to a hero's welcome and a parade around the town in an open top bus. On 5 March the BOA released a statement on his behalf, revealing that he had failed a drugs test, with his urine having tested positive for the prohibited substance, methamphetamine.[16] Baxter stated that he had not knowingly ingested, and that he would not make any further statement until the IOC's inquiry and disciplinary commissions ruled on his case.[17] After the first sample tested positive, a disciplinary stage was expected to follow and the British Olympic Association offered their support.[18] The International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a private two-day hearing in Lausanne, where Baxter would be able to speak, with the outcome expected the following week.[19][20] On 21 March, Baxter held a Press conference in London, where he offered an explanation that he believed a nasal inhaler that he had used had been the cause of the positive test.[21] the IOC announced the decision of their executive board that Baxter was disqualified and was told to return his medal. Baxter returned the medal, for it to be awarded to Austrian Benjamin Raich.[22]

Urine testsEdit

Baxter had provided a urine sample immediately after the race on 23 February.[23] Initial reports were that his urine sample contained a trace amount of methamphetamine, a banned stimulant. The BOA formally asked the IOC to carry out a split test on Baxter's sample on the basis that there are two forms of the drug.[24] The more advanced tests showed that the substance present was levMethamphetamine, a levorotary isomer of methamphetamine, which has no significant stimulant properties. Baxter later proved the source of levMethamphetamine was from a Vicks inhaler that he had used in the United States. He had been unaware that the contents were different from those found in the UK version. The International Ski Federation accepted his explanation and on 2 June announced they would require him to serve a ban of 3 months,[25][26] on the basis that this was a first offence of unintentionally using a prohibited substance.[27] This sanction meant he would miss the first month of the 2002–3 World Cup season and an appeal was lodged in late June.[27]

International Ski Federation appealEdit

The British Ski and Snowboard Federation appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the case was heard on 30 September 2002. The appeal was successful and his ban was overturned.[28] This gave the Baxter camp great hope for the next appeal to have his medal returned.

Olympic appealEdit

The British Olympic Association assisted with, and publicly funded, an appeal against the loss of his medal. In October 2002 his medal appeal was heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.[29] The basis of the appeal was that the form of methamphetamine in the USA Vicks levMethamphetamine is an inactive isomer of methamphetamine. The CAS and the IOC agreed that he had not intentionally ingested the substance.[30] Under the strict liability doctrine, athletes are liable if they inadvertently take any form of potentially performance-enhancing substance, and a large number of athletes have lost medals as a result. Cold cures and other over-the-counter medicines are the most common sources of trace levels of amphetamines and other stimulants. His appeal rested on whether levAmphetamine was performance-enhancing, Vicks and other expert witnesses explained that it was a decongestant, and had negligible stimulant properties. Dr Don Catlin maintained that the banned list did not specify isomers so all forms were on the banned list and the strict liability doctrine applied. This was particularly controversial since 100 US athletes who won 19 medals tested positive for stimulants at his laboratory, and were cleared to continue competing, and Dr. Catlin was named as part of a 3-man committee that routinely allowed US Olympians such as Carl Lewis to continue competing despite failing drugs tests.[31][32] The vast majority of athletes named in Wade Exum's papers tested positive for stimulants found in over-the-counter cold medicines. Most were cleared after explaining that they had taken the substances inadvertently.[33][34]

The Baxter Appeal team headed by Professor Arnold Beckett, a former member of the IOC medical commission, thought Dr Catlin's position was "inconsistent". He stated, "The things we are being told about in the USA make me very angry, particularly in relation to Alain Baxter's case. He did not take a banned substance, as levAmphetamine was not on the list, but it was Dr Catlin's evidence which the appeal committee believed."

The court upheld the IOC's decision to disqualify Baxter.[29][35] The CAS judgement found that "The panel is not without sympathy for Mr Baxter, who appears to be a sincere and honest man who did not intend to obtain a competitive advantage in the race."[29]:8 Nevertheless, they found that his offence had been committed and as such would not reinstate the medal.[36] In December 2002, Raich received the bronze medal.[37]

Return to competitionEdit

In 2004 Baxter won his seventh British Slalom title,[38] a record that was unequalled until Dave Ryding also won a seventh title in 2016.[39]

While his form never quite reached the same heights as they did in Salt Lake City, Alain Baxter remained the highest ranked and most recognisable male alpine skier in the UK. He was well respected by the more established skiing nations and his talent was the best the UK had produced.

He competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics at Turin, where he finished 16th in the slalom.[40]

In 2008, facing ongoing difficulties for funding, he posed naked for photographer Trevor Yerbury to produce a "tastefully nude" calendar.[41][42][43] Affected by a chronic back injury, he announced his retirement from competitive skiing in April 2009, age 35.[44]

Following retirement from competition, Baxter runs a ski shop near Glasgow.[45] In February 2014 an online petition was launched to return his medal.[46]

Other sportsEdit

He is also a keen player of shinty, and turned out for Kincraig Shinty Club when that club was still active.[47] Baxter won the 2005 British Superstars event, defeating Du'aine Ladejo who had edged Baxter out for the 2003 title.[48]

After announcing his retirement from downhill skiing in 2009, Baxter decided to try track-cycling.[49] He had some assistance from the Scottish Institute of Sport's talent transfer programme.[50] Baxter made his debut on a track bike racing at Manchester Velodrome on 5 December 2009, at part of the Revolution (cycling series) - Season 6.[51] He set himself a goal of racing in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 which he unfortunately did not achieve.[52]

In 2015, Baxter took part in Red Bull Crashed Ice racing events in Belfast and Quebec as part of a Scottish side.[53][54] He qualified for the final in Quebec but withdrew from the final after sustaining broken ribs.[54]


His brother, Noel Baxter is also an alpine skier. His cousin Lesley McKenna is a leading professional snowboarder and winner of two World Cups.

Baxter married businesswoman Sheila Dow in 2006,[55] after the two met at Finlay Mickel's wedding the previous year.[1][42] They have three children.[45]


In 2014, the decision was taken to name a housing development in Aviemore "Baxter's Court" in his honour.[56]


  1. ^ a b "Team GB: Ones to watch". BBC News. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  2. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (21 November 2005). "An email conversation with Alain Baxter: 'I just wanted my career back. Some people still don't believe me'". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  3. ^ "The Highlander returns". BBC News. 11 January 2002.
  4. ^ "Build-up begins for top skiers". The Herald. 16 November 1991. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ Harris, Nick (6 March 2002). "Skiing: Baxter's long ascent to top". The Independent. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  6. ^ Sutherland, Gary (10 February 2002). "The fabulous Baxter boys". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Scots selected for Olympics". The Herald. 20 January 1998. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b Nichols, Pete (6 March 2002). "Profile: Journeyman skier whose medal surprised even himself". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  9. ^ Alain Baxter at the International Ski Federation
  10. ^ Robertson, Andi (15 January 2001). "Baxter now in seventh heaven". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  11. ^ White, Jim (11 November 2002). "Interview: Alain Baxter". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Baxter grabs bronze for Britain". BBC News. 23 February 2002.
  13. ^ Drysdale, Neil; Hannan, Martin (24 February 2002). "Baxter's Coup". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  14. ^ Bathgate, Stuart (28 February 2002). "Britain worth dyeing for, says Baxter". The Scotsman. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  15. ^ White, Jim (11 November 2002). "Interview: Alain Baxter". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  16. ^ "British skier fails drugs test". BBC News. 5 March 2002.
  17. ^ "Baxter tests positive". The Guardian. 5 March 2002. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  18. ^ Harris, Nick (7 March 2002). "Skiing: Baxter has little chance to retain medal". The Independent. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  19. ^ Hutter, Giselle (13 March 2002). "Baxter handed weekend hearing". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  20. ^ Mackay, Duncan (13 March 2002). "Date set for Baxter drug hearing". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  21. ^ Harris, Nick (22 March 2002). "Skiing: Ruling gives Baxter hope for Olympics". The Independent. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Baxter hands back his bronze medal to IOC". The Scotsman. 29 March 2002. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Baxter: How I blew Olympic glory". BBC News. 21 March 2002.
  24. ^ Plummer, David (11 April 2002). "Baxter to take medal appeal to the top". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  25. ^ Harris, Nick (3 June 2002). "Skiing: Baxter hit with three-month ban". The Independent. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  26. ^ Mackay, Duncan (2 June 2002). "Baxter let off with minimum ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  27. ^ a b "Fresh battle begins as Baxter appeals against three-month ban from skiing". The Scotsman. 27 June 2002. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  28. ^ "Arbitration CAS 2002/A/396, Baxter/International Ski Federation (FIS), award of 30 September 2002" (PDF). Court of Arbitration for Sport. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  29. ^ a b c "Arbitration CAS 2002/A/376 Baxter / International Olympic Committee (IOC), award of 15 October 2002" (PDF). Court of Arbitration for Sport. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  30. ^ Rodgers, Ian (16 October 2002). "Skiing: Ruling gives Baxter hope for Olympics". The Independent. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  31. ^ Hannan, Martin (27 April 2003). "Puzzling tale of US's doping appeals". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  32. ^ US Track & Field Coverups Archived 7 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ "Claims cast suspicion on USOC drug policy". Sports Illustrated. 18 April 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  34. ^ "USOC Drug Czar Dr Wade Exum says athletes were able to bend drug rules". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  35. ^ "Fury as Baxter loses medal appeal". The Scotsman. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  36. ^ "'Sincere and honest' Baxter loses medal appeal". The Guardian. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  37. ^ "Plus: Skiing; Olympic Bronze Goes to Austrian". The New York Times. 11 December 2002. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  38. ^ "Baxter and Sharp Win British Titles on thrilling final day". 26 March 2004. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  39. ^ "Ryding equals Baxter's record as Brown seals GS victory and overall national title at Delancey British Champs". (Press release). British Ski and Snowboard Federation. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  40. ^ "Baxter's long Olympic wait ends". BBC News. 25 February 2006.
  41. ^ "Baxter bares all for Olympic bid". BBC News. 6 November 2008.
  42. ^ a b "What I know about women: Alain Baxter". The Scotsman. 16 February 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  43. ^ Mitchell, Paul (1 December 2008). "Alain Baxter: Northern Exposure". The List. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  44. ^ "Alain Baxter to retire from competitive skiing". STV News. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  45. ^ a b Usboure, Simon (11 February 2014). "Alain Baxter: Britain's first medal winner on snow?". The Independent. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  46. ^ "Campaign to return Olympic medal to Alain Baxter". The Scotsman. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  47. ^ "Alba – Airsplaoid". BBC. 26 December 1973. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  48. ^ "Baxter crowned Superstars king". BBC News. 24 January 2005.
  49. ^ "Uphill all the way". The Herald. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  50. ^ Thompson, Anna (11 June 2009). "Baxter swaps skis for the saddle". BBC News.
  51. ^ "Baxter pleased with cycling debut". BBC News. 7 December 2009.
  52. ^ "The Scottish Sun Interview with Alain Baxter". The Sun. United Kingdom. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  53. ^ McIver, Brian (22 February 2015). "Scottish skiing pro Alain Baxter swaps his skis for ice skates at Red Bull Crashed Ice event". Daily Record. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  54. ^ a b McIver, Brian (29 November 2015). "Scots skiing legend Alain Baxter makes shock impact at Red Bull Crashed Ice by skating over line in best time of tournament with broken ribs". Daily Record. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  55. ^ "Big day was no downhill event for ski star". Strathspey Herald. 1 June 2006. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  56. ^ "New flats set to be named in honour of Aviemore ski star". Strathspey Herald. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2016.

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