These are questions that MXA received about the James Stewart doping scandal. Hold on to your hat.
(1) WHY DOESN’T JAMES GO RACE IN EUROPE LIKE RYAN VILLOPOTO?
The FIM controls both the AMA Supercross series and the MXGP series — and they have both hired WADA to conduct drug tests. So, James is banned from Europe also. As for the idea that racing will suffer without James Stewart on the track, there is no doubt that it will — right up until the gate drops for Anaheim 1 and the rest of the talented riders starts dicing. Somehow our sport has survived the loss of Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Johnson, David Bailey, Bob Hannah and Tony DiStefano. It has the uncanny ability to find new heroes.
(2) IF THE AMA NATIONALS ARE NOT REALLY WITH THE AMA AND THEY AREN’T AFFILIATED WITH THE FIM, WHY CAN’T HE RACE THE NATIONALS?
The AMA Nationals are neither FIM nor AMA, as they are owned by an entity called “AMA Pro Racing” which is owned by Daytona’s France family. Unfortunately for James, the AMA Nationals signed on with USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and they are a signatory to the WADA system. In the end James is lucky that his 16-month punishment didn’t start from the date he raced his last AMA National in 2014—because, in the FIM’s opinion, he shouldn’t have been allowed to race the Nationals (because of the WADA/USADA connection).
(3) WHY DIDN’T THEY FINE HIM $50,000 AND LET HIM RACE?
Since James is the first racer caught up in an AMA drug scandal, his punishment sets the pattern for all future punishments. Thus, if they fined him $50,000 and then a week later caught some struggling privateer, they would have to fine him $50,000. James can afford it, but it would put most riders into deep debt and end their careers. James has the right to appeal the FIM decision and he should. Given past history, he might be able to get a reduced sentence.
(4) IF THEY LET RICKY CARMICHAEL GET AWAY WITH ILLEGAL GAS IN 2006, WHY NOT JAMES?
There is not a person in the sport who didn’t know that the Carmichael ruling was a glad handing, back slapping, political decision that was wrong in every sense (and one of the many rulings that gave the AMA a black eye). It’s bad when riders or teams cheat, but even worse when sanctioning bodies cheat. Here is a quick history of Carmichael’s fuel-gate: Jeff Emig’s fuel was illegal at the 1996 Indianapolis Supercross and he was disqualified. Then, Chad Reed, David Vuillemin and Tyson Hadsell were penalized 25 points each for having fuel that tested out of compliance on lead content at the 2004 Dallas Supercross. A year later, in 2005, the AMA penalized James Stewart and Michael Byrne 25 points for too much lead. Finally, at the 2006 San Diego Supercross, Ricky Carmichael’s fuel failed the lead test. Was he disqualified as Jeff Emig had been? No. Was he penalized 25 points as Byrne, Stewart, Vuillemin, Reed and Hadsell had been? No. Instead, Carmichael was fined $20,000, which Suzuki paid, and Ricky got to keep his finishing position, purse money and AMA points. Oh, yeah, and the 25 points Ricky got to keep earned him the 2006 Supercross Championship, which he would have lost to James Stewart by 23 points.
(5) WHY DID NFL PLAYERS ONLY GET A COUPLE GAME SUSPENSION FOR THE SAME ADDERALL VIOLATION AND JAMES GOT 16 MONTHS?
The NFL runs their own drug testing system and they hand out the penalties — which are part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The NFL drug policy is not handled by an independent organization like WADA, but by the league itself. Since the league does the testing, the adjudication and hands out the penalties, they are working in their own best interest. NASCAR has the same system as the NFL, minus the player’s union, and if you think Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would get the same penalty as A. J. Allmendinger you need to be drug tested. Neither Major League Baseball, the NFL or NASCAR are models that should be looked up to in drug testing.
(6) IF STEWART HAD A PRESCRIPTION FOR ADDERALL WHY IS HE BEING PUNISHED SO HEAVILY?
Since Adderall is used by many athletes as a cover for performance enhancing drugs, and Adderall itself can be performance enhancing when used in specific doses, its appearance in an athlete’s portfolio rings alarm bells. WADA asked Stewart in Seattle if he was taking any drugs or medication. He said “No.” So, when his test came back positive for amphetamines, which is in Adderall, WADA saw his negative answer as an attempt to hide what he was taking. When they discovered that he hadn’t file a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption), which would have allowed him to use prescribed doses of a medically required drug, this raised a second red flag at WADA. James may claim that he was guilty of stupidity, but WADA deals with the world’s greatest athletes and has heard every imaginative excuse possible — lots of them stupider. Now, say that James’ lawyers asked to have the B-sample tested — this raises a third flag because why would an athlete — who is admitting to taking Adderall want a second test — unless he was hoping it would prove that he wasn’t taking Adderall. The snowball effect of all of the permutations can build up quickly. Plus, saying “No” and not filing the proper paperwork are violations of the FIM Drug Code in themselves and demand a punishment. Sadly, WADA polices the complete spectrum of international sport and they believe that if an Olympic swimmer gets 16-months for the same offense, and a Tour de France cyclist gets 16-month for the same offense, then a motocross racer should get 16-months.
(7) WHY DOES THE FIM HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH AMA SUPERCROSS?
Back in 2001 the AMA and Supercross race promoter Clear Channel Entertainment (formerly SFX Motorsports and PACE Motorsports) had a falling out. The AMA claimed that Clear Channel was trying to take control of the AMA Supercross series and decided to find a new promoting group — which was Jam Sports. At the time the war between the AMA and Clear Channel could have resulted in two competing Supercross series and the factory teams, bound by their fiduciary responsibility to the AMA, would have been required to race the AMA series. It was gonna be messy because the factory teams had always supported the AMA and many of the manufacturers were on the AMA Board of Directors. Clear Channel needed a way to get the manufacturers out of their legal connection to the AMA. And they found one. By sanctioning the Supercross series with the FIM, they could trump the AMA and give the factories a way to race with Clear Channel — because the FIM was the world governing body and the AMA was only a national federation of the FIM. Thus, the Supercross promoters signed a long-term deal to become the FIM World Supercross series. The AMA, realizing it had been outsmarted, gave up and aligned with Clear Channel again. As for Jam Sports, who got left out in the cold, they sued Clear Channel in 2005 and won a $90,000,000 punitive judgment. That is 90 million with lots of zeroes! The judgment was set aside and new trial was scheduled, but the case was settled out of court. Thus, FIM is the sanctioning body of record for political reason — not because we need them —but because Clear Channel needed them.
(8) JAMES SAID THAT HE “RECEIVED BOTH WADA AND USADA APPROVALS” TO PROVE THAT HE WASN’T CHEATING, SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
James is playing fast and loose with the time line with that statement. It’s not actually accurate to the situation. After he was caught with amphetamines in his system, he applied for a TUE and provided all of the medical, doctor and prescription info to the FIM. But, that is kind of like getting a speeding ticket ten miles from your house and then wanting it rescinded because you are doing the speed limit 5 miles later. His TUE is good for 2015. His punishment is for 2014. And, anyone who wants to, including the Seattle Seahawks backfield, can to get a prescription for Adderall by telling a doctor the right story.
(9) I NEVER HEARD OF ANY OTHER RACER GETTING A SUSPENSION — WHY JAMES?
You haven’t heard of them because you didn’t care, but they are out there. Here are some examples. In 2001 Gert-Jan Van Doorn was suspended from racing for 18 months, while Andrea Bartolini got a 6-month ban. Both rider’s were fined, lost points and had to pay the FIM hearing costs. Bartolini’s sample contained nandrolone (anabolic steroid), while Van Doorn’s contains amfepramone (a derivative of amphetamine). Claudio Federici who was second in the 1999 125 World Championship failed a drug test for a metabolite of cocaine in 2002 and was suspended for 6-months. Josh Coppins tested six times over the limit for the stimulant pseudo-ephedrine, which he said he got from taking an over-the-counter hay fever tablet. Since ephedrine typically carries a 3-month ban, Coppins was given a 3-month ban, but it was suspended. But, he lost the points he earned at that race. Road racer Noriyuki Haga tested positive for Ephedrine in 2000 and received a one-month ban and had his points deducted. Haga lost 25 points during his ban and lost the WSBC to Colin Edwards. In November of 2013, MotoGP road racer Anthony West failed for methylhexaneamine (which he said he got from an energy drink). Originally, he got a one month ban from the FIM, but WADA appealed the decision and West was given an 18-month ban. In 2013, World Sidecar Cross competitor Lauris Daiders tested positive for the substance clenbuterol and got a 15-month ban. Want more? Back in 1975 an AMA rider named Ron Self told the AMA that his license application was “in the mail” and they let him race the Hangtown National. It turns out that Ron mailed the application to the AMA the day after Hangtown. They banned him from racing for 12 months! And that was for paperwork mistake.
(10) WHY DON’T THEY LET JAMES RIDE, BUT NOT PAY HIM ANY POINTS?
First and foremost, he has been banned for using a banned drug — and thus is not eligible to race until he serves his time or wins an appeal to have his sanction shortened (but that probably would not happen until after the 2015 Supercross season starts). Second, why would the sport want a rider on the track, who is ineligible to race, taking places away from legal riders, not to mention taking a spot on the starting gate that could go to a rider who didn’t violate the FIM drug code. And, no matter how many riders vow support for James Stewart on social media sites, they are only supporting him on the length of his suspension. Behind the scenes they know that the only way to stop racers from cheating by using performance enhancing drugs is to catch someone and punish him. Thus, they think James should get a lesser punishment in public statements, but, in private, don’t support him on the bigger issue. Most motocross fans, those who understand what is going on with drugs and sports, are of the same belief. These sanctions may apply directly to James Stewart in particular, but they also place a burden on the AMA, Feld, MX Sports and Suzuki to abide by them.