Zach Lund can laugh it about it, finally.
Getting kicked out of the Turin Olympics and labeled a drug cheat just hours before the 2006 opening ceremony remains a low point in the U.S. skeleton racer's life, a chapter brought on by his usage of a hair-restoration drug and never checking if the product complied with anti-doping rules.
Which it didn't.
"Going through all that, it's made me who I am now," Lund said.
Later this month, he'll finally become an Olympian. He's bald, too, having embraced head-shaving instead of trying to regain the mullet that he sheepishly acknowledges having during his youth. And he's even getting the chance to cash in a bit on his '06 misfortune — a company called HeadBlade says it will formally announce a one-year endorsement deal with Lund this week.
"It's definitely a bright spot from it," Lund said. "After it happened, even when it was happening, everyone was telling me to shave my head and make a statement. And I remember thinking, 'Yeah, I should, but I don't know if I have the guts to.' I liked the look, but didn't have the guts to take that next step and shave my head."
If Lund had raced in the Turin Games, he likely would have been among the gold-medal favorites. He won three World Cup medals that season, even with the looming possibility of a suspension because of the positive drug test triggered by an ingredient called finasteride, a steroid-masking agent that was on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list. (It no longer is, after studies showed it wouldn't mask anything.)
This time, he seems a long shot for the medal mix.
Lund finished the World Cup season ranked 13th, with only one top-five finish all season — a fifth-place on his home track in Park City, Utah in the series opener. The average finish of his other seven races: 13th, and he wasn't better than 14th in any of the season's final three races.
He spent the offseason working out at a specialized gym, getting stronger and leaner than at any point in his life. The extra effort just hasn't turned into results.
"I've gotten to the point where I realize what I've had to overcome just to get to this point and be on the team and have a chance to compete," Lund said. "I honestly am proud of myself, and I'm content with what I've been able to accomplish. Going into 2006, it was a medal or nothing. I would love to medal this time. ... I really want a medal ... but it's not going to decide if my career was a success."
At least the hair situation, well, isn't hanging over his head anymore.
When it first happened, the hair debacle was something Lund couldn't even talk about. He headed home after getting banished from Turin, his credential cut up and his Olympic qualification stripped from the books.
Time heals. Lund is even talking about trying to get on the public-speaking circuit when his days as a slider end, with hopes that his story can motivate someone.