ALAIN Baxter’s children are reaching that age. Kerr, Brooke and Callie – aged 11, 9 and 7 respectively – have followed their dad into skiing and every so often subjects such as Salt Lake City, Vicks inhalers and that phantom slalom bronze medal crop up across the dinner table. As the 44-year-old notes with a laugh, whether from school pals or journalists, these enquiries usually tend to reach a crescendo around Winter Olympics time. “Maybe a friend at school might ask them about it and we might have a chat, but I wouldn’t say it comes up as a topic of conversation too much,” Baxter told Herald Sport. “But they obviously know what I achieved and what I did. They understand more about it now. Occasionally I popped up in the news or on Winter Olympics stories four years ago, but back then they didn’t really know what it was all about.”

I was present in Aviemore back in 2002 when Baxter was piped in, shoulder high, to his home town like some all-conquering superhero, only to be swiftly de-frocked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when it was discovered that 20 millionths of a gram of methamphetamine had made it into his urine sample. The explanation for how it got there is uncontested, but ultimately irrelevant, at least so far as the IOC are concerned. Who cares that cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins can now obtain Theraputic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for strong anti-histamines, or that asthma sufferers such as Chris Froome know they have a safe threshold to keep within when it comes to a salbutamol inhaler. Who cares if Russian athletes can be re-instated into the Winter Olympics despite being implicated in a vast state-sponsored doping conspiracy. Put in its simplest terms, the IOC’s strict liability rules left no wriggle room for Baxter. After decades of appeals, court procedures, petitions, written letters from MPs and MSPs, they still don’t.

And all this when all bodies universally accepted his explanation that the reading originated in a US Vicks inhaler – whose ingredients differed from those in the British version of the same product, which Baxter had used trouble-free for years – bought by his coach from a local supermarket to alleviate sinus problems brought on by the dry Utah air as he rested up between training sessions by watching videos in the Olympic village. The IOC even called him a “sincere and honest man”. So how often had he regretted that purchase? “That is a tricky one,” he says before lapsing into the darkest humour. “There are loads of what ifs. I rented some pretty good movies that day too.”

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In all seriousness, being humbled in such a fashion might have broken many a weaker character than Baxter. He was told once that using that inhaler had cost him a million pounds but the 44-year-old’s anger has gone. He has a happy family life in his house near Dunblane with his wife Sheila and three children, and a thriving ski and snow sports business in Stirling. “It is not a huge thing in my life anymore,” says Baxter. “My story is not all about that. I have been there, done that. Obviously that day is still a very, very proud moment. The skiing itself, the result was awesome, amazing. What happened after that obviously tarnished it. But when it comes up, every four years or whatever, the feeling that I get from people speaking about it is great, because it is all positive. Everybody I speak to wants to see the medal come back but there is nothing really going on really.

“There was the petition, and we have had MPs, and MSPs have written letters to the IOC,” he added. “Was it was four years ago? Or eight years ago? But the press called the IOC, and I said ‘good luck with that one’. Basically the only answer they got was ‘the ruling of the IOC back in 2002 still stands’. What are the exact words, they say I am ‘a sincere and honest man’ with ‘no intention to cheat etc’. I was cleared of any wrongdoing which is great, it covers them and makes me feel a bit better about myself. But there is no intention of them changing. It would take another court case and another load of money and would we get it? I don’t know. Their strict liability rule is too strong.”

Baxter largely keeps his counsel on all this recent TUE stuff, but the one which really stuck in the craw was how long it took the IOC took to strip Lance Armstrong of his Olympic bronze medal from Sydney in 2000. “The IOC have said that had I declared [a TUE for his sinus problem] that I would have been fine, but I have heard cases where Commonwealth Games medalists have not declared an inhaler and they have been fine,” says Baxter. “What I did find frustrating was the Lance Armstrong affair. When it all came out about him, his Tour de France titles were stripped straight away, but it took a while for the IOC to take his bronze medal.”

Baxte is correct to state that his story wasn’t all about in Salt Lake City. He competed until the age of 36, finishing 16th in Turin in 2006, and throwing in a victory over athlete Du’aine Ladejo in the final of BBC show Superstars, before changing under Sport Scotland’s talent transfer programme to track cycling, which saw him fall seven tenths short of representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. “I loved it - instead of battering down a mountain, you are battering around a velodrome.”

In recent years came competing in a daredevil Red Bull Crashed Ice event on skates, some ice hockey and shinty, and starting his ski equipment shop, and coaching for the British Ski Academy at Pont Suaz in the Italian alps, where his children spent a few weeks after New Year. Whether or not that medal ever returns – he hasn’t given up hope just yet – perhaps his story may have an alternative happy ending, in the form of the next generation. “At the moment my kids are still quite early in their racing, they’re racing kids who have been doing it for years and you don’t want to be too serious at 11 years old,” he said. “I know how much it takes to get there ... but I certainly would crack open a beer if one of them went on to win an Olympic medal.”