A Doping Expert Explains Why Andrea Iannone's Suspension Was 18 Months

On April 1st, the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI) finally issued its judgment on Andrea Iannone's appeal against his suspension for doping. The Italian was handed a ban of 18 months, during which he is not allowed to participate in any events sanctioned by any organization subject to the WADA doping regulations. That includes events organized by the FIM or any national and regional motorcycling federations.

The length of Iannone's suspension was a significant reduction from the ban specified by the rules. Under normal circumstances, failing a doping test for drostanolone, a so-called non-specific substance (because it is not on a list of substances for which there is an alternative explanation), would result in a four-year ban.

Although the CDI did not comment on the case beyond the official press release announcing the 18-month suspension, Aprilia and the lawyer for Andrea Iannone claimed that the court had accepted the Italian's claim that he had ingested the substance accidentally, when he ate some contaminated meat.

Iannone's camp were still unhappy with the length of the ban, which would see him unable to race until 17th June 2021, and would appeal to the CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Italian has until 21st April, tomorrow, to file an appeal.

What are the chances that Iannone will prevail at the CAS? Doping cases are complex and highly technical, and difficult for laypeople to follow and understand. This is complicated further by the fact that the WADA rules are not like a normal legal system: any athlete accused of a doping infringement is assumed to be guilty, and must prove their innocence.

To make sense of the case, it is best to talk to a subject expert. Hungarian TV presenter and journalist Niki Kovács interviewed Dr. Ágnes Tiszeker, General Director of the Hungarian anti-doping group Hunado, to ask for her insight into the case. Although Dr. Tiszeker could not comment directly on the Iannone case, she provides some very useful insight into the broader questions behind the case.

For Dr. Tiszeker, understanding the question of proof is key. "In the case of an Anabolic Steroid, the athlete must prove that he or she did not take it intentionally," she told Kovács. Given that athletes are held responsible for everything which enters their body, there were several bars to cross if they were to prove accidental contamination.

"Three factors must be met for an athlete to claim food contamination if an anabolic androgenic steroid is detected in the urine," Dr. Tiszeker said. "First, the rule says that if someone refers to food contamination, they need to look at where the athlete was, since, for example, in the EU, this reference base is out of the question, as the authorities also control meat products and live animals too. China and Mexico are typically dangerous areas in this regard, but Asian countries may serve contaminated meat too." Given that Iannone tested positive for drostanolone at Sepang, and claimed the contamination happened from eating steak in Malaysia, this gives some small credence to his claim.

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Good information from someone qualified on the subject.

One thing i can't see being fair is.... "We also had number of cases, where an athlete substance took a dietary supplement, did not know it contained a prohibited substance, was not properly labeled on the box, and although the ban was moderated, and the athlete was banned."  seems a bit unfair. How is the athlete to know what is in absolutely everything they ingest, unless they get it tested as it's not on the label?  BTW stumo's whey powder does not contain ANY drostanolone ;-)

the fear, I suspect, is that someone could claim to not know and the box didn't list.  And now the, for example, traine supplies the box...  And something later turns up fishy.  I believe ultimately that making the authlete completely and solely responsible is about the only viable way to go.

Is there a chance that the CAS could over-rule the judgement made by the CDI and increase the length of the ban?

In the case of Ant West in 2012, he was suspended by the CDI for 1 month; WADA were not satisfied with this decision and took the case to CAS which resulted in an 18 month suspension. This is a slightly different situation as the case was brought by WADA against the judgement of the CDI to increase the length of suspension. Iannone's case will be against the CDI to reduce the length of the suspension.