Illegal Suit? Ken Read Robbed of WC Win

Ken Read was stripped of his victory in a World Cup downhill race when FIS ruled that his suit was illegal

Much like Formula One, the World Cup downhill is where the world’s best manufacturers, athletes and teams develop new techniques, new technologies, new whatever it takes to win.

In the late 1970s, ski suit technology was shifting. “At one point,” said Read, “they had plastic on the outside of the suit. If you fell you kept sliding at the same speed.” The FIS stepped in to protect racers and specified how porous or slippery suits could be. “Descente had a new suit using a new construction,” Ken explained. “Normally, there was a testing machine on site, but it wasn’t available that day.  A number of athletes, including Dave Murray and I had the new suits, the assumption being they were fine.” 

In 1979 at Crans Montana, Switzerland, Read won the race. The Italians protested. The suits were seized, tested offsite using a different machine and ruled illegal. The Canadians appealed. Too late! Ken vindicated himself in the next race. “I came in third. That was my answer. Take my win, but I’ll step on the podium anyway.” Descente’s new construction became the norm. The bottom line? Said Ken, “we were robbed and abused. Politically.”

Artifact Details

Date: January 13, 1979
Manufacturer: Descente
Colour: Red
Markings: Canadian Alpine Ski Team – official race suit. Location: Crans Montana World Cup downhill #1.