3rd April 2020

Andrea Iannone to appeal 18 month ban to CAS

MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone is to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), after being sanctioned with an 18 month ban despite the international motorcycling federation (FIM) apparently accepting that an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for a metabolite of drostanolone was caused by contaminated food. ‘We will support him in his appeal to the CAS’, read a statement from Iannone’s Aprilla team. ‘It is satisfying to see how the total absence of intention was recognised and the accidental nature of the consumption of steroids, in fact recognising the argument of food contamination’.

The decision of the FIM’s international disciplinary court (CDI) has not been published, as it is subject to appeal. Iannone was provisionally suspended on 17 December last year, after an in-competition sample given at the Malaysia Grand Prix on 3 November. His 18 month ban will run from then, expiring on 16 June 2021.

‘Being judged as innocent certainly does not leave me happy because, for the first time in history, an athlete is judged as innocent yet at the same time, is sentenced to 18 months for eating contaminated food over which he has no control’, wrote Iannone on Instagram (below). ‘And I will not stop in my quest against this sentence because it should never happen again for anybody else’. 

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Sono passati mesi da quando questa triste storia è iniziata e vi confesso che ogni giorno mi è parso un anno. Essere giudicato innocente non mi lascia certo felice poiché, per la prima volta nella storia, un atleta viene giudicato innocente e allo stesso tempo viene condannato a 18 mesi per aver assunto cibo contaminato fuori dal proprio controllo. E non mi fermerò davanti a questa sentenza perché non dovrà succedere mai più per nessun altro. Nonostante la sofferenza di dover percorrere un cammino impervio e non scelto, ingiustamente, ho deciso di continuare ogni mio passo in silenzio. La mia sofferenza silenziosa, però, ha nascosto fino ad oggi tutto quello che questa vicenda mi ha insegnato: nulla è scontato e tutto può cambiare in un secondo. Mi porto dietro però anche tante note positive, come il vostro affetto o l’aver potuto valutare persone e fatti in modo più maturo. Proprio così, nonostante tutto oggi sono più maturo e consapevole del vostro affetto. Non mi avete lasciato mai e mi avete accompagnato in ogni momento di questo triste e duro percorso. Ecco perché affronterò il mio futuro ricordando per sempre questi momenti, cercando di essere la forza che io ho avuto: donando il meglio di me agli altri. Nel ringraziare tutti voi che mi siete stati accanto, però, rivolgo la mia riconoscenza anche ai miei amici, alla mia famiglia e a mio padre in particolare, a tutto il Team @aprilia, a Massimo Rivola e a tutti i miei sponsor che non mi hanno mai abbandonato. Oltre al mio ringraziamento, inoltre, rivolgo tutta la mia stima al mio avvocato, Antonio De Rensis che mi è stato accanto in ogni momento come un padre fa con i propri figli. A tutti voi, sarò per sempre grato. Andrea

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Under the ‘strict liability’ provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code, an athlete must prove how a prohibited substance ended up in their sample, otherwise they are considered at fault. Last year, US swimmer Madisyn Cox was sanctioned with a two year ban as she couldn’t prove that her AAF for trimetazidine was caused by contaminated tap water, despite an international swimming federation (FINA) Doping Panel believing her.

In 2017, the international volleyball federation (FIVB) lifted a provisional suspension imposed on Serbian volleyball player Ana Antonijevic, accepting that an AAF for clenbuterol was caused by eating contaminated meat at a tournament in China. In 2012, the CAS upheld a two-year ban administered to Aberto Contador, after he reported an AAF for clenbuterol in 2010, which he also claimed was due to eating contaminated meat.

The amount of clenbuterol detected in Contador’s sample was 50pg/ml, much less than the 2,000pg/ml required to have an active effect. The CAS accepted that contaminated meat could have caused such an AAF for clenbuterol, but agreed with the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that the possibility of this was low. The CAS did not agree that Contador had met his burden of establishing no fault or negligence, or no significant fault or negligence, so imposed a two-year sanction.

As such, there is a danger that a CAS appeal could increase Iannone’s sanction. Italian tennis player Sara Errani was initially sanctioned with a two month ban after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted that although her AAF for letrozole was likely to be caused by accidentally consuming her mother’s breast cancer medication which had contaminated her food, she couldn’t conclusively prove that this had happened. Her ban was increased to ten months following an appeal to the CAS.

The reason why such strict requirements are placed on athletes to prove that their food was contaminated is perhaps illustrated by a decision in May last year. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF – now World Athletics) dismissed María Guadalupe (Lupita) González Romero’s claim that her adverse analytical finding (AAF) for a metabolite of trenbolone was caused by contaminated meat, concluding that the Mexican racewalker forged documents in an attempt to prove her case. 

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