Nearly every viewer of this site, be it casual or die-hard enthusiast, knows of the work and dedication that each rider on the line puts in to achieve their goals. To obtain the levels of success that every professional racer has, no expense or measure is spared. Racers will shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for secluded pieces of property, far away from the prying eyes of the public and the competition, to develop personal racetracks that rival world-class venues. An on-site gym with pieces of equipment that even the nicest facilities lack may take up an entire floor of the racer’s mansion, which is adorned with memorabilia of past accomplishments. Hours will be spent on baked test tracks, hitting the same single groove countless times, all in order to mesh with the bike’s every trait. With millions of dollars, fame, and the scant possibility that one will live out a childhood dream on the line, these steps, which will give you an advantage over the competition, are worth the hassle.
But why stop there in the pursuit of glory? As a racer, your chosen career path feeds off of your unbridled competitive nature, your drive to succeed by any means necessary. You will make passes on the track which will be considered questionable, launch in to treacherous obstacles with reckless abandon, and come as close as you can to breaking a rule without actually making an infraction. Depending on the outcome, those choices can define your legacy in a positive or negative light. If presented with an option that is guaranteed to increase you stamina and cut your healing times in half, though illegal, you as a competitor would be ignorant to pass up this opportunity.
Doping is the sporting world’s dirty little secret. It takes place in the locker rooms and gyms of arguably every physical activity on Earth, giving one an added edge over the competition. It has built and destroyed the careers of the world’s most iconic athletes and has spread to local levels, in high schools and Golds Gym’s across the country. To assume that it has not come in contact with motocross is asinine. Our sport has always been dubbed as one of the most physically demanding on earth and has now begun to receive mainstream attention as a result of its beautiful, grueling nature. The athletes and trainers of the sport are some of the most physically fit people on the planet and they have recently come under fire for the methods that are used to get them to the level they are at by the international anti-doping police of WADA.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, was established as an independent Switzerland based foundation in 1999 and was financed solely by the International Olympic Committee. The foundation quickly received support from various governments and adopted the World Anti-Doping Code in 2004. Use of the firm is not required worldwide, as many sports have maintained in-house testing procedures in lieu of WADA’s strict and rigorous measures, but the FIM has agreed to use their standards. The 76 page FIM issued rulebook is filled with technical terms, rules, and mandates that all must abide by. It is easy to be overcome when reading through the various sections, but the message is clear: no presence of a prohibited substance, be it on purpose or accidental, is permitted in a rider’s sample. There are also stiff penalties and fines for mistakes made by team or support personnel, which can wreak havoc on a racer’s career.
The list of prohibited substances is similar to that of all other major sports. No anabolic steroids, synthetic or natural growth hormones, insulin, or diuretics may be found in a urine, blood, or matrix sample taken from a tested rider. Other, more extreme measures are included in the illegal definition, such as blood transfusions for enhanced oxygen transfer, gene doping, and chemical or physical manipulation of DNA. These may seem like impossible, farfetched ideas, but as the competition level rises and advances in technology take place, the rules must change as well.
A handful of racers, most notably Chad Reed and defending Supercross and National champion Ryan Villopoto, have been approached by the worldwide force and have been chosen as the sample group for their increased presence in the motocross community. The two riders are figureheads for the sport, both multi-time champions and fan favorites, and both have a history taking a vocal stand when things do not fit their likings. The veteran Reed has become a proponent of rider safety and is often seen discussing obstacles and measures with both AMA and FIM personnel, while Villopoto has taken a similar stand on a handful of occasions, such as at 2011’s outdoor finale in Pala, CA. For these two to be chosen out of the group does not come as a surprise, but rather as an honor: the results of their tests can shape the worldwide perception of motocross.
To comply with WADA’s methods, both are to present officials with quarterly schedule of their planned whereabouts and must include a one-hour window in each day in which a random, unannounced test may take place. To be unavailable or to miss a test is considered a violation of the anti-doping protocol and is counted as a strike against the racer’s record. Three violations will result in a mandatory suspension by the FIM, and though appeals may be turned in, it is seen as a guilty act on the rider’s part. Reed and Villopoto have both taken part in the random testing, as Reed recalled the event as “something like a dream, to have someone beating on your door at 6 am.” The testing has begun to take place at events as well, as Matt Moss was sequestered to give a sample just after stepping down from the podium after his third place finish in San Diego. When a rider is chosen at random, they are taken to a private room with a FIM official, a WADA control officer, a mandated chaperone, and an interpreter if necessary. While in said room, which is outfitted with a washbasin, lavatory, and lockable refrigerator to hold the sample, an official will personally watch the sample be given so that no tampering may take place. “The guy goes in to the bathroom and has to see the urine come out. You kind of get a little stage fright at first, but you get used to it,” says Reed. “It is a measure that they have to take, because the people that are doping have fake bladders that come out of other areas to cheat the test.”
While these procedures may seem intense and intrusive, Reed believes they are steps in the right direction but only if they are carried out correctly. “I don’t believe that they will test enough consistently for it to be a benefit. But I am okay with it. I am one of two people that have to do it to the extreme level. I am under contract from December 31st of last year ‘until I am notified.’ It is hard work and that is the only thing that I don’t like about it.” That the sample group is limited to only Reed and Villopoto brings some concern to the Australian. “None of the current riders in the outdoor series, except for Ryan and I, have to abide by the FIM rules. They will go by the AMA rules, which are pathetic. I question that, because the advantage of doping would be seen more outdoors instead of in Supercross.”
When questioned if the use of performance enhancing drugs were prevalent in the paddock, Reed was quick to vent his frustrations. “I don’t know if anyone is doping. You always assume on some people, so we will see. I know that Ryan and I will be legit, but if other people are cheating and not getting caught, that’s part of the game.” If the scope of the test is widened and more racers are drawn as samples, Reed claims that another black eye on the sport may be revealed. “There are definitely a lot of recreational drugs going on within the pits. I’ve been around and seen a lot of it and it is not a side of the sport that you want the public to see. It is around and it exists, and it is sad. There are rules that don’t allow that and if they get caught, then they get caught.”
Doping busts have taken place in seemingly every sport. Cycling’s Tour de France has been enveloped in controversy for decades and only recently has a case been closed due to lack of evidence against it’s golden child Lance Armstrong. Baseball’s 1998 homerun chase between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa will forever be riddled with questions of its legitimacy, as both stars were questioned by federal prosecutors regarding the matter over ten years after the battle. Many assume that the practice has become commonplace in motocross, and with the assistance WADA, the FIM looks to keep the sport from falling in to a similar light.