Oxford student may have been killed by ‘mix of drink and medication’ on ski trip to French Alps

The father of 22-year-old History student Matt Smith dismissed claims his son had struggled with cocaine and heroin addictions

Matt Smith, a 22-year-old Oxford student and qualified snowboard instructor, with his girlfriend Ellie Bagshaw
Matt Smith, a 22-year-old Oxford student and qualified snowboard instructor, with his girlfriend Ellie Bagshaw

An Oxford student who died on the first day of a university ski trip could have been killed by a mixture of alcohol and bodybuilding drugs, French police have said.

Matt Smith, a 22-year-old history student at St John’s College, was found unconscious in his room at the Val Thorens ski resort in the early hours of Sunday morning.

An emergency response team was called, but he was pronounced dead following suspected cardiac arrest.

Mr Smith’s father, Howard Smith, said he feared his son’s death was related to a combination of him taking prescription medication and the high altitude, but added that Matt had died “doing what he loved”.

Responding to the incident, police said Mr Smith had gone out to a party and started drinking soon after arriving at the resort.

Jean-Pascal Violet, state prosecutor in nearby Albertville, said that the post-mortem examination had revealed “no evidence of an intervention by a third party” and no signs of violence, The Times reported.

Mr Violet said: “We suspect a heart failure linked to a combination of consuming alcohol and medicines but we have no certainty about that.

“Witnesses told us that he took medicines. We are carrying out tests to find out whether these medicines could be linked to his sporting activities.”

Investigators were looking into the possibility that Mr Smith might have taken muscle-boosting drugs.

“He practised bodybuilding and bodybuilding is conducive to those drugs,” Mr Violet said.

Toxicology test results are unlikely to be known for another two weeks.

A member of his college rugby and rowing teams, Mr Smith was also a qualified snowboard instructor, and had gone to the Alpine resort as part of the annual Oxford and Cambridge Varsity snow-sports trip.

The event is notorious for heavy alcohol consumption and has been criticised by tour operators responsible for hosting the trip in previous years.

His father has dismissed speculation the student had struggled with cocaine and heroin addictions and said suggestions that he had died after heaving drinking were “completely false”.

He told The Times: “Matt has taken time off from Oxford to recover from mental health problems, and had recovered well.

“We are disappointed that there has been such a focus on unrelated speculation, which is a distraction from celebrating Matt’s life and his achievements.

I can deny reports that Matt was suffering from drug problems, but he had been taking antidepressants for successful treatment of mental health issues, and painkillers for sports injuries.”

He added: “We are awaiting the final results of the local investigations, but we already know that Matt hadn’t had a chance to start partying in Val Thorens before he was taken ill. We believe that complications from his health and medications, and possibly altitude, led to his tragic early death.”

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