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  • Writer's pictureAdéla Pavlovská

Doping in motorsport?

Unlike other sport disciplines, the motorsport world seems to be quite immune to doping scandals. However, there is one in MotoGP that raised a lot of attention.

It would be naive to think doping affairs have avoided motorsport completely. But compared to athletics, cycling, or bodybuilding, the number of illegal substance abuse is significantly lower. Most of the time, it happens on the American continent, but we have such cases also in the Czech Republic, with Tomáš Enge being the brightest example. In this article, however, we are going to look at an affair that shook the MotoGP world. In 2019, one of their superstars, the Italian Andrea Iannone, got a positive drug test.

But let's start with the basics. Andrea Iannone competed in MotoGP from 2013 to 2019. He started with Pramac before stepping up to the factory team Ducati in 2015. With the Italian team, he scored three podiums and a pole position. His maiden win came a year later in Austria. Despite this, he had to make place for Jorge Lorenzo, departing to Suzuki. His first season with a new team was difficult, yet he scored four additional podiums.

December 2019 was a life-changing moment for Iannone, but not the way he would hope. The Italian was in the middle of preparations for the next season he was about to compete in with Aprilia. He underwent a doping control, which revealed the presence of Drostanolone in his system. As a result of this, he got provisionally suspended from all motorcycle events by FIM and WADA for 18 months. In addition, he got disqualified from the final two rounds of the 2019 season. Iannone immediately placed an appeal against the decision, taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Aprilia has publicly expressed their support for Iannone but was forced to find a replacement while waiting for the appeal to be resolved. Bradley Smith and later Lorenzo Salvadori took Iannone's spot, however, the Italian team declared a desire to retain The Maniac for the 2021 season if the appeal would get overturned.

Iannone's drug test contained Drostanolone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid that can be found on the list of prohibited substances made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in the paragraph S1: Anabolic Agents, section 1: Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS). To this day, Iannone denies any intentional usage of drostanolone, claiming that it got into his system via contaminated meat he was supposed to consume in Malaysia. Therefore he took his appeal to CAS. The trial took place in November 2020, and the outcome did not please the Italian at all. Not only the court dismissed his appeal, but also his suspension got extended to a four-year ban for violating WADA's regulations. Iannone is unable to appeal this decision, and thus is his case solved. The Italian is forbidden to compete till December 2023. Iannone claimed that Drostanolone got into his system unknowingly, however, he was unable to present the type nor the origin of the meat that supposedly contained the illegal substance. Furthermore, neither Andrea Iannone nor his experts were able to prove there was an issue of meat contamination.

The decision produced a lot of opinions about the situation, some siding with Iannone. His former teammate at Aprilia, Aleix Espargaro, was enraged by the harshness of Iannone's punishment, stating:

"[I'm] very upset especially on the personal side because just he knows if he did a mistake or if it was contamination, but in the end a four-year ban is ridiculous. With one-year ban, or the 18 months is more than enough. Four years is an abuse and it's completely too much for me. But WADA has decided this, so there's nothing to do anymore," then he adds: "it's not that I have doubts [about the ruling], it's just in the end nobody knows [the truth], just he knows. If Andrea says it was for meat contamination, I can trust him, why not? In MotoGP actually, you don't really gain a lot by taking drugs. But he's the only one who knows what he did."

So, what's next in store for Andrea Iannone? His ban is due December 2023, which makes him eligible to compete in 2024. But since 2019, he hasn't driven or tested any racing-specification machinery, which can be a significant hindrance for him. However, Iannone is confident about his comeback. "I'll be back [riding], he told Gazzetta dello Sport, "I don't know where, how, and when, if in MotoGP or Superbike, but I guarantee it: I still can't fill my life with other things [other] than the bike or the speed." It seems unlikely that Iannone would return to the MotoGP grid. The only team that stands by his side is Aprilia, but they have a competent duo of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. There is a bigger chance for Iannone to race in WorldSBK, a series that is more low-profile.



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