174 Days Later | Will James Stewart Race?
We don’t have the answer, but we’ve compiled a few details thanks to talks with those involved and past rulings by the FIM…
It's been 174 days since we learned of James Stewart's positive WADA drug test for an amphetamine at the Seattle Supercross, and as important as this is, the topic has been utterly silent from all involved. Sure, there is constant talk by fans of the sport and the media, but we essentially know nothing more than we did when Stewart was barred from competition at the Monster Energy Cup or even when the first word of a provisional suspension came in June. And it's frustrating for everyone.
Trust us when we say that the absence of news is not due to a lack of trying on our part. Stewart said a small part of his story for an interview that was published in our magazine, but has refused to comment any further. Members of his camp are silent, probably to avoid being viewed as "a mole" to the media. Representatives at the FIM we have contacted tell us that the decision will come in time, but that they know nothing else on the matter, while our inquires to Feld Motorsports refer us back to the FIM. All in all, it’s led us down somewhat of a dead end road.
Here is what we do know about the Stewart situation. The test occurred following the 2014 Seattle Supercross, where Stewart finished second, and his "A" sample was tested shortly after. An amphetamine was found in the urine sample, the result of prescribed use of Adderall to help with attention deficit disorder. While the medicine is prohibited under the WADA banned substance list, its use can be legalized if the athlete applies and is approved for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). In this instance, Stewart had not filed for the TUE beforehand and thus, the use was deemed illegal by WADA and the FIM. According to Stewart, he filed the necessary paperwork immediately following.
Sometime in June, Stewart and the Yoshimura Suzuki team were notified of the positive test and they released a limited statement on June 19th. A statement from the FIM followed on June 20th, which issued a provisionally suspension from FIM competition to Stewart. This all occurred in the middle of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, but since the series is overseen by MX Sports and AMA Pro Racing and is a non-signatory to the FIM, he was allowed to race the remaining rounds. His summer came to a premature end at Millville due to sudden dizziness in the second moto, and he missed the rest of the series. The inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm was unsanctioned and Stewart was allowed to compete. But AMA Supercross, a subsidiary of the FIM, ruled over the Monster Energy Cup and thus his entry was denied by the suspension, despite a recent approval of his TUE by WADA. The approval of the TUE by WADA after the fact is a matter in itself, as it is somewhat rare for the board to approve a post-test application. However, instances like an acute medical condition make it possible to attain a late approval.
At some point between the test of the A Sample and now, the B Sample was also tested and contained the same banned amphetamine. It is important to note that there have been no denial by Stewart that he used the substance.
Shortly after the Monster Energy Cup, WADA/FIM conducted a Provisional Hearing on the matter in Switzerland. This was said to be the final meeting about Stewart's suspension and according to those involved, the official ruling by the FIM was to be announced within 30 days time. Obviously, that has not been the case.
After researching other cases of banned substance use within the FIM, we noticed that ruling on things of this kind have historically been a lengthy matter. In the instance of Anthony West, a participant in the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix in the Moto2 Class who tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, we noticed a five month time span between his test and the official penalty from the FIM. To add even more interested to this case, the initial one month suspension issued by the FIM was somewhat overruled by WADA, who called for a two year ban on West. The matter was resolved to an 18-month suspension. Similar things have happened in other sports that enroll into the WADA programs.
So, maybe this silence isn't uncommon after all. The case of West, a mid-pack rider in the Moto2 series, was left in limbo because the final decision was delayed by the FIM and WADA's failure to agree. Stewart, who is arguably one of the most popular riders motocross today, has a massive influence on fans of the Monster Energy Supercross Series and it would be in the best financial interest of those behind the championship to have him on the line. But as we saw with West, WADA retains the right to replace the final decision and will do what they feel is just, regardless on monetary gains.
If Stewart is deemed “Ineligible” by WADA or the FIM, which would ban him from any professional motorcycle event that is either a signatory or non-signatory of the FIM, it would almost certainly bring a swift end to his career. Already considered an elder of the Supercross series, his retirement from the sport is somewhat imminent. He nearly hung his boots up during the failed stint at JGR Yamaha and the initial contract with Suzuki was said to be just enough to get him through the rest of his career. A full suspension by the FIM and WADA will force a number of his sponsors to withdraw their support from his program, as strict clauses by companies that an involved in other sports includes punishment for any major rule infraction.
This uncertainty has not stopped Stewart from preparing for the upcoming series, which starts in less than a month, and his offseason has been filled by practice sessions with the Yoshimura Suzuki team. Will he be on the line come A1? We have no idea. Feld has left him out of the preseason hype, an absence immediately noticed by fans, and there is no indication of when a resolution from the FIM will come.
All shots are from Milestone MX Park in August, where Stewart turned laps on the combined Main and Vet tracks for National prep…