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Race True

By saltire | 15 Jun 2011 | 12 Comments | 5,043 views

Professional racing drivers are supreme athletes, they and their personal trainers monitor every aspect of their fitness to enable them to cope with the extreme demands motor racing places on their bodies, so it seems inconceivable that an F1 driver would knowingly take performance enhancing drugs.

When Rubens Barrichello was involved in Formula One’s first ever drug testing scandal at the 1995 Japanese Grand Prix, the drug testing laws applicable to the sport were considerably weaker than they are now. Rubens had taken an over the counter nasal decongestant that contained ephedrine. As soon as it was realised that Rubens had taken a prohibited substance the FIA’s medical advisor, Prof Sid Watkins was informed. In his opinion Barrichello was “totally ignorant” that the medication contained a banned substance and he was not punished.

Since then, the list of prohibited substances has been incorporated into global anti-doping policy via the World Anti-Doping Code. Although the Fédération Internationale de l´Automobile are relatively new adoptees of WADA standards there has been one driver from another series to have tested positive for prohibited substances. Thirteen year old Polish junior champion kart driver Igor Walilko, was banned for two years after testing positive for the stimulant Nikethamide.

The case showed just how difficult it is to know what is and isn’t allowed within the regulations but ignorance of the rules is no excuse. The prohibited list includes items that are banned “in-competition” and those that are not allowed at any time, indeed competitors in the testing pool must advise the FIA of their whereabouts on a quarterly basis so that they can be available for ad hoc testing.

“It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his body. Athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their Samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation under Article 2.1.”
 

The obvious no-no’s for motorsport will need no further explanation; these include drugs controlled by law, in-competition alcohol, in excess of 0.1 mg per ml (in blood) and anabolic steroids, but it’s the less well known substances, perhaps sold as over the counter remedies or prescribed by a doctor that can get the driver into trouble. One such substance that surprised me was Insulin, used in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Whilst it’s highly unlikely that a super fit F1 driver would require insulin, some competitors who hold motorsports licences and take part in classic races could find themselves at odds with the regulations.

It’s not only drugs and over the counter remedies that have the potential to get the unwary driver into trouble, even relatively normal foodstuffs can cause problems. WADA recently warned drivers at the Chinese GP to be careful of what they eat as farmers use the hormone Clenbuterol (Autosport paywall) to make meat leaner, prompting Fernando Alonso to joke “Yes, I eat plain rice boiled in mineral water, and energy bars”. For these reasons the FIA have launched the “Race True” anti-doping campaign which will give drivers and the medical staff with whom they are in contact, the information they need to know to comply with the regulations. The complete list of prohibited substances can be found in the further reading list below and on the FIA website; an e-learning course and quiz on the prohibited list will be available there from next month.

Further Reading:
FIA Anti-doping regulations
Press Release re Igor Walilko
The Prohibited list

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12 Comments »

  • Lukeh

    Very interesting article about something you don’t really see or hear about unless a scandal erupts. And I have learnt something new about Rubens, win win!

    Good work Jackie :)

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  • Mav

    Great article.

    I seem to remember Max Papis failed a test at the same time as Rubens for similar reasons (obviously a lot of colds going around the paddock that week).

    It’s not like the old days though, when Sir Stirling and others were using amphetamines in the Mille Miglia quite legally…

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  • Joebob

    That upcoming quiz sounds like fun..

    An interesting insight though into a area of sport F1 luckily rarely enters, but there is enough scandal already!

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  • Pitmonster

    A very interesting article, and good that the FIA are offering support and advice. Of course many over-the-counter medicines and prescription drugs can be taken for purely legitimate reasons but still cause the person to fail a sports drug test. For example Edgar Davids, a famous footballer had an eye condition but had to play in goggles because the eye drops would have made him fail a drug test.

    I recall a crackdown on ’stimulants’ in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Benetton driver Allesandro Nannini cut out caffeine and nicotine overnight, and he smoked 40 a day and drank a dozen espressos so imagine the withdrawal symptoms…

    Would a racing driver use drugs? I know that pre-war driver Archile Varzi was a morphine addict, but it was more common and more socially acceptable back then.

    As for performance enhancing drugs, Fangio famously gave Stirling Moss a ’stamina pill’ before the famous 1955 Mille Miglia – widely reputed to be some form of amphetamine. It’s amazing that these things were acceptable back then!

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  • Mav

    That upcoming quiz sounds like fun..

    Wonder if they’ll use #F1Quiz :-D

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  • Pat W

    I can’t believe insulin is banned. Charlie Kimball is an American racer who is diabetic and relies on insulin, obviously. He’s stepped up to IndyCar this year sponsored by a drugs company specialising in diabetic care, they’ve provided him with an in-car system to help give him the right sugars etc and the pit crew have been trained to give him an emergency shot if he needs one.
    There was a piece on it in the Indy 500 I think but I can’t find it now, do a Google Video search on his name though, there’s some interesting stuff there.

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  • Mav

    Pat W,

    I believe exemptions can be given under medical grounds. asthma treatments are often overlooked if they can be justified

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  • Phil Cee

    Don’t forget Tomas Enge, he was stripped of his 2002 F3000 title for smokin’ da ‘erb. In his defence, weed would show up on some drugs tests if it was inhaled passively and Tomas was never caught in possession of it. There was also a former Ferrari employee who had a lot to say on 1980s F1 drivers and cocaine, but I think he got laughed out of town and his claims were never investigated.

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  • saltire (author)

    Pat W,

    I believe exemptions can be given under medical grounds. asthma treatments are often overlooked if they can be justified

    I should have read deeper into the rules before publishing :-( Having looked it up, athletes can apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) even though a substance is on the banned list. Here’s the legal bit from article 4.5.

    “Athletes with a documented medical condition requiring the use of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method must first obtain a TUE. The presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers (Article 2.1), Use or Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method (Article 2.2), Possession of Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Methods (Article 2.6) or Administration or Attempted Administration of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method (Article 2.8) consistent with the provisions of an applicable TUE issued pursuant to the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions shall not be considered an anti-doping rule violation”

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  • RubberGoat

    How about another banned substance? Oxygen! Olivier Beretta suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while following the safety car, and was told that if he wanted to continue in the race he wasn’t allowed to take oxygen to recover as it is a stimulant. So the poor guy had to rest 5 hours before he could get back in the car!

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  • Marina

    This is a really interesting article! It’s rare to find information about what the drivers have to go through, as opposed to what the cars have to go through. ;)

    And it’s nice to know that the FIA are trying to be more clear about their rules.

    Good work, salti! :)

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  • Alianora La Canta

    Pitmonster, I don’t think a sensible professional racing driver would use drugs at this time. There are many, many drugs that will improve one aspect or another of a driver’s performance but they invariably have downsides that impact other areas of their performance, and there is also the matter of the benefit/loss profile adjusting as the drug wears off (since the most potent ones would be difficult to apply to an in-race drinks system without losing the drug’s effectiveness).

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