Alain Baxter: Northern Exposure
Alain Baxter was stripped of his Olympic medal but now he’s stripping to get enough cash to win another. Paul Mitchell discovers how Scotland’s most famous skier made the move from failed athlete to nude model.
It looked like the perfect victory. In February 2002, after becoming the first Briton to win an Olympic medal in Alpine skiing – with a glorious run in the ski slalom event at Salt Lake City – Alain Baxter was celebrating with his family. But his joy was to prove short-lived. Days after that magnificent achievement the Highlander, as he’s affectionately known, received a phone call telling him traces of lev-methamphetamine had been found in his blood. Labelled a drugs cheat and stripped of his medal, the world fell apart for the mild-mannered sportsman. After a lengthy appeal, judges ruled that the drug had actually come from an over-the-counter Vicks Inhaler, which didn’t give him any competitive advantage. It restored his reputation but, sadly, his medal was never returned to him. It still rankles. ‘I still feel that I got shafted,’ he says. ‘I put in the performance of my life that day and to have that taken away from me was quite hard to take. I know a lot of people still regard me as the moral victor, and I have to say I agree with them.’
Six years on, with some injury nightmares behind him, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are firmly in his sights and since the offers haven’t been flooding in as they did when he was ranked 11 in the world, he’s taken the idea of generating media exposure to its literal extreme by releasing a calendar featuring 12 shots of himself in his birthday suit. ‘It was my wife’s idea,’ he laughs. ‘At the moment you have to go out and try and sell yourself. With what’s going on in the world right now it’s really hard for everybody to get by, not just sports-people. Plus, I’ve also got family, and two kids to think about.’
He first discovered skiing on the slopes near Aviemore, his home town, at an early age. ‘I actually lived in a caravan park after my mum and dad separated, but in winter there was always loads of stuff to do when we were kids. We made slides and used sledges made from trays or slid down in our feet. It was all great fun.’
As Scotland’s premier skier, he has always flown the flag for his country, famously dying his hair blue and white, in the shape of a saltire, when he made his ill-fated bid for Olympic glory. ‘I thought it was a laugh, but since I was representing Britain I sorted it out before the medal presentation. I’m proud to be Scottish, but it wasn’t the political statement some people made it out to be.’ Now, years on from his first bid, he might just become Scotland’s hottest pin-up too.
Alain Baxter’s calendar is available now from his site at www.alainbaxter.co.uk