Andrea Iannone has lost his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his suspension for failing a drug test. The CAS ruled that Iannone had failed to prove that he had ingested drostanolone, the banned substance which had appeared in the urine sample taken from him after the Sepang race, as a result of eating contaminated meat.
Both Iannone and the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) had appealed against the 18-month suspension imposed by the FIM’s International Disciplinary Court (CDI). Iannone was asking to have the ban dropped, claiming that he had failed the drug test because he had eaten some contaminated meat. WADA wanted the 18-month ban extended to four years, which is the mandatory suspension for violating the WADA doping code.
Iannone had argued that the very small quantities of drostanolone which had been detected in his urine sample could only have come as a result of accidental ingestion by eating contaminated meat. However, in the WADA code, which covers nearly all sports, the onus is on the athlete failing a drug test to prove their innocence, reversing the burden of proof in a criminal court.
The CAS ruled that Iannone had not been able to supply convincing evidence of accidental contamination. He and his legal team and the scientific experts they had called on had failed to provide evidence for what type of meat he had eaten that might have been contaminated, what such meat might have come from, nor that there was any evidence of widespread contamination with drostanolone in meat production in Malaysia.
Failing to provide evidence for this fatally undermined Iannone’s case, and the CAS felt compelled to impose the mandatory four-year ban set out in the WADA code. The suspension commences on December 17th, 2019, and runs until December 17th 2023.
With Iannone out for the next three years, his career is essentially at an end. He would be 34 by the time he is eligible again, and would have been out of competition for four years. By that time, there will be another cohort of fresh young faces from Moto3 and Moto2 knocking at the gates of MotoGP, who will be a much safer bet for team managers.
Iannone’s suspension also leaves a hole at Aprilia. The Noale factory had been holding off on a decision about a replacement rider until Iannone’s case had been dealt with by the CAS. As a result, they have missed out on the opportunity to sign replacement riders. Andrea Dovizioso has chose a sabbatical – and the risk of retirement – over a seat at Aprilia, and Cal Crutchlow looks set to go to Yamaha as a test rider. Options are few and very far between for the Italian factory.
There have been rumors of Jorge Lorenzo going to Aprilia, Lorenzo admitting he had an offer from the Italian factory. But doubts linger over Lorenzo’s commitment to racing after a poor showing at the Portimao test last month. Lorenzo has little incentive to return to MotoGP on a bike which is not yet competitive. Whether he has the will to do so should become clear in the next few days.
The press release from the CAS appears below.
MOTO GP – DOPING
THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT (CAS) IMPOSES A FOUR-YEAR PERIOD OF INELIGIBILITY ON ANDREA IANNONE
Lausanne, 10 November 2020 – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has announced its decision in the appeal arbitration procedures between the Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone, the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) and the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). Andrea Iannone and WADA filed separate appeals at CAS against the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court dated 31 March 2020 in which Andrea Iannone was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) (presence of Drostanolone, a anabolic steroid featured on the 2019 WADA Prohibited List) and an 18-month period of ineligibility was imposed on him.
The CAS Panel rejected the appeal filed by Andrea Iannone and upheld the appeal filed by WADA. As a consequence, the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court has been set aside and replaced with the following new decision:
• Andrea Iannone is sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of four years commencing on 17 December 2019.
• All competitive results obtained by Andrea Iannone from and including 1 November 2019 through the commencement of his suspension are disqualified, with all resulting consequences, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.
The appeals were consolidated and referred to the same Panel of arbitrators: Dr. Hamid G. Gharavi, France/I.R. of Iran (President), Judge Franco Frattini, Italy, and The Hon. Michael J. Beloff Q.C., UK (Co-arbitrators). The hearing took place on 15 October 2020.
On 3 November 2019, on the occasion of the FIM World Championship MotoGP in Sepang/Malaysia, Mr. Iannone underwent an in-competition doping control which revealed the presence of Drostanolone. Further to an internal disciplinary procedure, the FIM International Disciplinary Court decided on 31 March 2020 that Mr. Iannone should be suspended from participating in any motorcycling competition or activity during 18 months as of 17 December 2019.
Andrea Iannone asserted that the source of the prohibited substance was contaminated meat that he had ingested in Malaysia prior to the 2019 Sepang FIM World Championship MotoGP and that accordingly, he should be fully acquitted and that the Challenged Decision should be annulled. WADA, on the other hand, sought the imposition of a four-year period of ineligibility on the grounds that Andrea Iannone had failed to establish to the requisite standard that the origin of the prohibited substance in his sample resulted from meat contamination, and that as a consequence, the imposition of a four-year period of ineligibility was the appropriate sanction.
The CAS Panel found that Andrea Iannone had failed to establish neither the precise type of meat he had consumed nor the origin of said meat. Moreover, the Panel found that neither Andrea Iannone nor his experts were able to establish specifically that there was an issue of meat contamination by Drostanolone in Malaysia. The Panel considered therefore that an ADRV has been committed.
Andrea Iannone essentially left the Panel with protestations of innocence, his clean record and his alleged lack of incentive to dope. Factors which were insufficient to establish, on a balance of probability that Andrea Iannone’s ADRV was not intentional (in case of an unintentional ADRV, the applicable period of ineligibility would have been of two years maximum).
Since it is for an athlete to establish on the balance of probabilities that an ADRV is not intentional, his inability to do so means that he is deemed to have committed an intentional ADRV, pursuant to the applicable anti-doping rules. The Panel’s conclusion does not of itself rule out the possibility that Andrea Iannone’s ADRV may be the result of consumption of meat contaminated by Drostanolone but means that Andrea Iannone has not been able to provide any convincing evidence to establish that the ADRV he committed was unintentional.
Accordingly, the Panel found, contrary to the Appealed Decision, that the ADRV committed by Andrea Iannone was to be treated as intentional for purposes of the applicable anti-doping rules, and therefore upheld WADA’s Appeal. The CAS award sets aside the decision rendered by the FIM International Disciplinary Court dated 31 March 2020 and imposes a four-year period of ineligibility on Andrea Iannone.