LONDON (Reuters) – The Aprilia MotoGP team slammed an 18-month doping ban for Italian rider Andrea Iannone as absurd on Wednesday and said they would back his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The sport’s governing body FIM imposed the ban after Iannone tested positive for the banned steroid Drostanolone in a urine sample at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Nov. 3. The suspension will run until June 16, 2021.
Iannone, who won the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix and had a contract to the end of this season, was also disqualified from the results of the races in Malaysia and Valencia.
The 30-year-old has maintained his innocence and said he ingested the banned substance accidentally through contaminated meat.
“The judges recognized Andrea’s complete good faith and unawareness of assuming the substance, confirming the food contamination argument,” said Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola in a statement headlined ‘absurd penalty’.
“For this reason, the penalty imposed does not make any sense.
“In light of the motivations written by the judges themselves, Andrea should have been acquitted, as has always occurred to other contaminated athletes, but this situation leaves us a lot of hope for the appeal which we hope will be very quick,” added Rivola.
“We want Andrea back on his Aprilia RS-GP. We will be by his side all the way to the end of this matter and we will support him in his appeal.”
Iannone, nicknamed ‘The Maniac”, joined the team in 2018 but struggled to match team mate Aleix Espargaro for the majority of last season.
He said the last few months had been the toughest time of his life.
“It (the sentence) could have been much worse, even if we lost all the same,” he told Sky Sports Italia. “None of us knows for certain what they are eating. There’s an inconsistency between the rules and real life.”
The 2020 MotoGP season has yet to start due to the coronavirus pandemic. The March 8 Qatar opener was canceled and other races up to May 17 have been postponed.
The Italian is the first rider to be banned for a doping offense in the grand prix paddock since 2012, when Australian Moto2 rider Anthony West tested positive for methylhexanamine.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Ken Ferris)