Doping: Nikolai Pankratov Edition

So the big news in XC over the last few days has obviously been Russian skier Nikolai Pankratov being caught with some, shall we say, suspicious materials.  The first thing I do when I hear things like this are of course to look up his results like the last timeFirst Pankratov’s distance results:

The early races in this graph are mainly a handful of Russian FIS races, 2 WJC races and I think one WC that he did in 2003.  Then Pankratov just suddenly starting WCs full time in 2003-2004.  He had a pretty darn good season too, with most every result coming in between 10 and 30 FIS points.

The ten podium finishes mentioned in the FasterSkier article linked to above include 7 relays but does not include Tour de Ski results1, so he’s actually had four podiums in major international individual races: 1st in a pursuit in 2008, 2nd in a 15k classic in 2003, 3rd in the 2008 TDS 15k classic race and 2nd in a freestyle sprint in 2007.

Several interesting things about Pankratov’s results.  First, I’d say that since 2004 he’s been getting slightly slower, generally speaking.  He’s managed a few good results each season, but only a few.  And his worst results are getting consistently slower.  Second, the 2008-2009 season stands out as being somewhat odd.  He had a single good race, an 8th in the 15k classic at the TDS, but it was way better than everything else he did that season.  And then last season, 2009-2010, he’s nearly back to where he was in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.  Illness or injury can explain a single bad season, but that one excellent race, literally sandwiched between more pedestrian efforts in a manner of days, seems odd to me.  Clearly, anyone can pop a great race, and he’d raced that fast in the past.  Still.  Given current information, I’d be busy updating my priors on him.

Sprinting is less interesting, since he’s not focused on it quite as much:

Not much point in a trend line here, not enough points.  I don’t have much to say about this graph, but thought I should show his sprint results as well just to be complete.


  1. Note to those interested: journalists looking for quick answers to these sorts of questions should be very careful using the FIS website.  Usually, you’ll go to the Biographies section, type in someone’s name and then filter the results with the drop down menus.  Note, though, that the Category drop down menu has separate items for World Cup, Tour de Ski, World Cup finale, World Ski Championships and Olympic Winter Games.  Pick one and it counts only those race.  FIS, organized as always!  One of the first things I did with my database was create a view that picks out “major international” results so I would have quick access to these kinds of things.

Related posts:

  1. Career Retrospective: Laurence Rochat
  2. Career Retrospective: Tore Ruud Hofstad
  3. Career Retrospective: Virpi Kuitunen
  4. Variability In World Cup Ski Racers
  5. Victims & Nemeses: Kris Freeman

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5 Responses to “Doping: Nikolai Pankratov Edition”
  1. FedererFTW says:

    I’d be more interested in seeing a trend of M. Bjoergen results over the years, and to see how that asthma medicine is working out for her and more than half of the Norwegian national team. Interesting how pretty much all of those Norwegian skiers got that banned WADA asthma medication cleared by the FIS, yet the Russians are in trouble (again) by having medication(?) that isn’t on the WADA banned substances list. I see a double standard.

    • Joran says:

      Technically speaking, I believe the IV equipment is itself a violation (at least, so says Kris Freeman in the comments at FasterSkier and a subsequent article by Nat). A technicality, perhaps, but rules are rules. The “calf’s blood” stuff certainly lends a bit of juiciness (ha ha) to whole thing, but is probably being overemphasized. I don’t know much about the whole asthma medication kerfuffle. I certainly know the Norwegians tend to be really panicky about EIA (which IMHO isn’t entirely supported by the science) which could plausibly lead to an atmosphere where tons of people are clamoring for asthma medication because they (and their equally panicky NOR doctor) genuinely believe they have a legit medical condition. That’s not to say people aren’t abusing it of course…but I’ll remain agnostic on that one until I see something more concrete. Like say, getting caught with banned substances/equipment. Then, I’m pretty cautious about these things.

      I can certainly show you a Bjoergen results graph. Don’t know how much you’d be able to infer from it though, other than that she’s really freakin fast. As I wrote in my other doping posts, looking for unusual race results is probably a really unreliable way to identify cheaters.

      • FedererFTW says:

        The thing is, Ethiopian distance runners drink ‘calf’s blood’ as their weekly, if not daily diets. Are they doping? The fact that a majority of the FIS is represented by the Norwegians it only magnifies their disdain for the Russians, no matter their results. Shame, because arguably they are the strongest skiers out there.


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joran Elias, delltodd. delltodd said: @outsideinmi statisticalskier has the Pankratov stats broken down at the link […]

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  2. […] in the news, providing plenty of red meat for commentary.  I humbly contributed some graphs of Pankratov’s results over the years, which hopefully provides some context for his ability level and […]

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