Adderall Aftermath: The Implications of James Stewart’s Supercross Ban
The motorcycle racing community was in uproar for months following the decision handed down by the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme/International Motorcycle Federation) to ban pro Supercross/Motocross racer James Stewart for one year for an anti-doping violation. Stewart tested positive for amphetamines at the Seattle Supercross last June. It was later determined that these came from a drug called Adderall, commonly used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Adderall is banned by a large number of world and national sports organizations, because in addition to its ability to aid those who suffer from ADHD, it can increase alertness, aggression and arousal, enhance hand-eye coordination and reaction time, mask pain and fatigue, and potentially improve speed, strength, and power – all things that could certainly benefit a Supercross racer, or virtually any other athlete.
A decision was finally reached in late December to suspend Stewart for the period of one year from the date of the failed test. Another interesting fact to consider in this situation was the role of the different sanctioning bodies involved. The AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) is a member of the FIM, but there was great deal of disagreement between the two sanctioning bodies. In a rather heated letter to the president of the FIM, the AMA president states that he was greatly dissatisfied with the way the FIM handled the case for a number of reasons, and that since the International Medical Commission later granted him an exemption, his “transgression was largely a failure to fill out the appropriate paperwork rather than seeking out a competitive advantage.” Stewart and his team, Yoshimura Suzuki, sent out a press release that runs much in the same vein, saying that he plans to appeal his case, and that he has gotten several approvals that proves he wasn’t cheating (but not until quite awhile after he had already tested positive and been given a temporary suspension), and this approval would presumably allow him to take the drug next year without penalty.
To many people, this makes it appear that Stewart’s punishment is unfair and excessive, since the drug was prescribed by a doctor for an actual medical condition, especially if James was unaware that his medications could result in a positive drug test. Other people think that it is a bit too convenient that Stewart just happened to be taking the one ADHD medicine that has performance-enhancing effects when there are numerous other options available, and furthermore, any athlete, especially at the professional level, should be responsible for making sure that they are in compliance with all regulations.
• Should lack of knowledge or awareness of the rules be a mitigating factor for rule violations?
• Is it discriminatory to ban drugs as performance enhancers when they actually treat legitimate medical issues?
• What responsibility do doctors of professional athletes have to avoid prescribing drugs like Adderall? Do they have any obligation or is it solely the responsibility of the athletes?
• Should ex post facto (after the fact) approval result in a reduced penalty.
• Is it wrong for an athlete to use a medically-required drug with performance enhancing side effects, such as Adderall, when there are other proven options available?
• Did the FIM take the correct approach, or was there potentially a better way of handling the situation? What ought to be done if there are cases similar to this one in the future?