This week the proverbial other shoe dropped on the James Stewart saga. The FIM announced a huge penalty of sixteen months for his failure of a drug test from last April. They penalty was retroactive from the discovery of an amphetamine in his system at the Seattle Supercross, which turned out to be an ingredient of Adderall, which is commonly prescribed for people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). It has also been proven to be helpful for people who have suffered concussions and have trouble focusing as a result.
Of course you know by now that Stewart has since been granted a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) for the prescription, but he did not have that before the FIM tested him in Seattle. Everyone knew a penalty was coming—the whole roll-out of the news (three months after the fact) and the subsequent process that saw his penalty not announced until this week—and he deserved some punishment, no doubt. But sixteen months? That’s a whole bunch of time to take away from an athlete at the end of his career, especially for something he had a prescription for, and now the TUE.
Needless to say, this is a very complicated matter, and not a lot of people are happy about. Yoshimura Suzuki spent all fall testing with Stewart and working to get him ready for Anaheim 1 on January 3, 2015. The AMA, which was supposed to have some say in the process, was left out in the cold as well, leading AMA President Rob Dingman to write a scathing letter to the FIM about this whole fiasco, which Steve “Guy B” Giberson got the scoop on and posted earlier this week.
As Dingman said, “Given the legitimate medical purpose, Mr. Stewart’s was largely a failure to fill out appropriate paperwork rather than one of seeking a performance advantage.”
All of Stewart’s sponsors and fans are furious; others say the punishment fit the infraction. Personally, I think there should have been some kind of punishment, and Stewart did sit out the Monster Energy Cup as a result of the over-hanging issue. But sixteen months? That knocks him out of almost entire season. Incredibly, with the suspension ending in mid-August.
So the FIM threw the book at Stewart, eight months after the test, and they also changed the race results—even his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross finishes, though he was not suspended for their races (MX Sports and the series are AMA Pro Racing events, not AMA, and thus not a signatory of the FIM rules and WADA code). To this day, no one from the FIM has contacted MX Sports Pro Racing about Stewart’s eligibility from his last summer or told us they wanted to erase his results.
James himself went to Instagram to release this statement:
The last 8 months have been very tough & honestly devastating to a degree. The Love & support I’ve received from the industry & my sponsors has been truly amazing. They're has been a lot of athletes very vocal over this decision & I truly appreciate it tremendously. I'm extremely sorry that it's come down to this but it has shown me just how much this industry stands up for each other through tough situations. To my fans... I'm not gonna lie after receiving this devastating news last Friday, I was honestly contemplating retiring, I felt like I couldn't fight anymore. This situation has taken a toll on me. But the support from you the fans this last 24hrs has had me nearly in tears. Reading the comments & seeing all the overwhelming letters, signs, shirts, etc. has made me ready to fight & show you the fans & my sponsors what you deserve. Thanks to all of you I’m gonna be around for a long time to come. Your support showed me how much you guys appreciate me so with that being said, it's gonna take a lot more then this to run me off. Thank you for literally keeping me on my bike for years to come. The louder you guys are, the more it makes me ready to be back for you. I hear you loud & clear so no matter what you will see me behind the gate doing what I love hopefully sooner than later.
Guys like Jeremy McGrath and others took to social media to back James Stewart, and I have spoken to a lot of guys who are shocked and bummed that it’s all come to this—I personally think that it’s way too harsh a penalty, for what is effectively a prescribed drug that he is now allowed to use by the FIM’s own standards. He didn’t have his paperwork in, but did anyone at the FIM conduct a pre-supercross meeting to educate Stewart and all of the other athletes about the perils of taking prescribed medication without conferring with the FIM and reading the vast codes and do’s and don’ts of prescribed medication?
Jason Weigandt answered some of the more frequently asked questions here.
I have something to add: Back in 2001, when the AMA Pro Racing’s then-president PJ Harvey signed the deal in Japan with the FIM that would see both sanction the series—the whole idea was the fallout from the Jam Sports fiasco that saw AMA Pro Racing go out looking for a new supercross promoter, so the existing promoters went out and got a new sanctioning body in the FIM—it was decided that the AMA would control the rulebook for supercross, but there were two areas that the FIM wanted to oversee: sound levels and unleaded fuel. (San Diego 2006, anyone? Didn’t the FIM ultimately let Ricky Carmichael have all of his points back after they found trace amounts of lead in his fuel?) Rather than tailor a system to their sport—like the NFL or MX Sports with USADA—a few years later they decided to go with the FIM because they already had a system in place.
In the end, I feel really sorry for James. He didn’t do his homework here and got popped, and rest assured he is not the only rider using Adderall at this time. I am pretty sure more TUEs will be issued in the future for this same thing. In my opinion a hefty fine and a more reasonable suspension—it’s four games in the NFL if you use Adderall without a TUE—but what they have done is knocked him out of two championships—Monster Energy AMA Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, one of which they don’t even sanction. Like Mr. Dingman said, a sixteen-month suspension is arbitrary and capricious, and the penalties seem to seek to punish the AMA and its contract partners as well: Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing, which is where I work, so I ovbiously have a dog in this fight.
I could go on and on, but right now I just hope James doesn’t give up hope, fights this obviously outrageous penalty, and races again sooner rather than later—waiting until 2016 is a long time to be out.
I also hope every single rider in AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross gets busy reading the WADA and USADA codes and knows exactly what they are using, whether or not it’s legal, and whether or not they need a TUE. Because if James Stewart got 16 months for this terribly mishandled process, imagine if someone really was knowingly cheating…
HO-HO-HO (Steve Matthes)
Just got back home here in Vegas after kicking it at Racer X HQ in Morgantown, WV. Jason Thomas and I were out there shooting some SX preview videos with Weege, Jordan, Chase, and Gloop, which will start airing next week (and thanks to Doug Cabrera, Michael Prince, and Ken Hudgens for allowing us to use some highlight footage from last year). We had a lot of fun shooting, and I think you guys are going to like us three and Ping talking about our lovely sport. I think shopping for the props was perhaps the best part of the whole thing. Look for appearances from some alphabet soup, waffles, every energy drink, and lots of ice cream. That’s about all I’m allowed to say.
After that was the Racer X Christmas party held at one of Morgantown’s finer establishments, Tin202 (no, not the Fishbowl), and a good time was had by all. Thomas and I were starving after the party and decided that right there and then would be a good time to sample some Jimmy John’s and support RCH Suzuki. Yes the ‘wiches were made freaky fast and were delicious.
Thanks to DC, Julzzzz, and everyone at the office for the party. I’m bummed I left my two-stroke candle I got at the gift exchange at the party. You better bring it to A1 Weege!
Lump of Coal for Stew (Matthes)
That’s what the FIM delivered Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart for X-mas, with the suspension that basically wipes out his year. We’ve weighed in all week as a staff on this topic. It's perhaps the biggest news to hit our sport in, well, ever, so I’ll save you guys the time and direct you to the BTOSports.com Podcast JT, Weege and I did on this topic. If you don’t want to listen to it, here are my five basic thoughts:
1.) The FIM waited way too long to dish this penalty out. Yoshimura Suzuki is really the innocent victim here.
2.) James Stewart deserved a penalty, no doubt in my mind, but this was way too harsh in my opinion.
3.) Some prominent people in the industry really bum me out on social media when they show their lack of understanding this issue.
4.) I don’t think his appeal, the AMA’s letter, or anyone else helping out will do anything to lessen this suspension.
5.) This whole thing sucks.
HILL BE THERE (Aaron Hansel)
A deal has finally fallen into place for Josh Hill—for the first six races, anyway, and possibly more. When nothing was panning out for Hill late into the off-season, Yamaha stepped in, along with Chad Lanza (owner of Valli Motorsports), and put something together that will get Hill on the track.
Managed by Larry Brooks, who worked with Hill in 2010, it’s more of an effort right now than an actual team, and with so little time left before A1, the main focus is to get Josh on a competitive bike (as of Wednesday, parts were still being gathered and the race bike wasn’t put together yet) for the first six rounds. At that point a decision will be made whether or not the effort will head East. From the sounds of it, the decision isn’t entirely performance based—sometimes these last-minute things just don’t work out. But if Brooks, Hill, and Yamaha are all gelling and everyone’s happy, there’s a better chance they’ll complete the season together.
JEAN-MICHEL BAYLE (DC)
I really appreciate all or the feedback that we have been getting on our 40 Years of Supercross countdown (and I thank Matthes and Weege for picking up a couple of days while I had some family trips to make). One of my favorite years was 1991, with the arrival of subsequent success of Jean-Michel Bayle. He was French, and he wasn’t always liked, but even guys like Jeff Stanton, back then the guy who probably disliked JMB the most, now speaks fondly of just how impressed he was with Bayle’s natural talent, and how he had to put up with a lot of booing from the crowd, who didn’t really understand him. I bring all of this up because at the bottom of the 1991 feature the comments got a little bit sideways about JMB somehow not being “respectful enough” to the American flag and fans.
Well, Bayle himself decided to comment on his season, his career in America, and how he really felt. It’s a very cool look back, and pardon his English—it’s a second language to the Frenchman!
I follow with a lot of passion the Racer X 40 years Super Cross and it is always a great honors to be parts of the list. I follow because Super Cross is a big parts of my life, the first time I discovered Super-Cross was when they organized the first Super Cross in Paris back in 1984. At this time I was 15 and I was racing mini bike and my goal was to be World champion like George Jobe, Eric Geboers, Dave Thorpe. In the first Super cross in Paris in 1984 all the best American riders was there, David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara, Broc Glover and the young new star Ricky Johnson. They humiliated all my European World champion heroes there, my heroes was looking like amateur in the small Paris Bercy stadium and on this day every change in my head, from this day my heroes changed I realized the superiority of the American riders and my goal was now to reach level so I can race with my American heroes.
That why i decided to do everything possible to race in America.
My goal was never motivated by revenge or to show then one French riders can be better then American riders. My goal was to get better and better to be able to race with all my heroes.
At first when I decided to go to America, not so much people understand why i was taking this kind of decision, I was world champion all ready at this time, and for everybody in Europe and in France World champion is a world champion, why going to race in a National championship in America, so everybody in France was again me, all my fan was surprised, and I have to paid the French motorcycle federation $10,000 USD to be able to be release and to take a AMA license.
Only one people of the moto cross world understand at this time my decision,his name was Pat Boulland, Moto Verte French reporter, he bring me to California in end of 1988 and make me meet crucial people, LaPorte Family, Roger Decoster, Mitch Payton and John Gregory (JT Racing).
So in 1989 I am with my AMA licence, but I have no contract to Race in the AMA championship, the only contract a have is to race the world 250 championship for the Japan Honda Racing department, the HRC. This time was difficult for me because I felt like I was emigrate to America. French people was not happy and i was not really welcome in America also, but I was sure then I was doing the right think and then people will understand better later.
Even Honda was not happy about all this I was very lucky to have Pat Boulland, Roger Decoster, Mitch Payton, the LaPorte family and the AMA people to support me at this time. So in 1989 I race some super cross race in the beginning of the season and the first outdoor national and raced in the 250 World Championship and bring back the title, but not for the French but for America due to my AMA license.
In 1990 I have a full contract with American Honda Team to race all the AMA super cross and moto cross national championship with the result you know. In 1991 I realize all my dream with the three major championship, I was racing with all my heroes and more than that I won.
Of course I am French, but I love America and I have a lot of respect for all American people. It was not always easy when I was racing in America. It was difficult to be boohooed at race because I was French, but i never had any hate or despise for any American people, I had always try to respect the fan’s and the riders I was racing again.
I of course never try to be American and to do like a American, i was French and living in America, I was just trying to be a good men and try to make my dream come true by passion for my sport, by passion for the Super cross world.
Today I live in France, I will come to Anaheim to watch the race, because it will be a pleasure to watch all the riders , they still heroes for me, and to see all my old American friend.
I want to said thank you to The United Stade of America to welcome me back in 1989. I want to said thank you to the AMA federation. I want to said thank you to all the American people who supported me. Thank you also to all the riders i raced again in my AMA careers. Thanks to all my crew team members at this time at Honda. Also thank to all the reporter TV or magazine even if the communication was not always easy.
I respect also all the people who boo me, they give me the power to keep focus on my dream and they participate to make me a better man.
SOUTHWICK UPDATE (DC)
New England's Keith Johnson is a lifelong motocross racer with a very long resume of excellent SX and MX finishes and Loretta Lynn's wins. He's also taken on the task of rebuilding Southwick Moto-X 338, which has been in a state of slumber for the last year. Keith posted some photos on his Facebook page this week as well as some hints as to what the track is going to look like: "If you remember things like 'the camel humps,' 'the alligator pit,' 'the sky hook,' and 'the Buckley Berm, you're gonna love the 'new' 'old' Southwick!"
TICKLE ME RICKY (Matthes)
We’ve known about Broc Tickle re-upping with RCH Suzuki for a while now, but the news was made official this past week. I think it’s a great move for the team because going into a season with all those sponsors and only one rider in this risky sport is a, well, risk. Having a second guy is almost a necessity these days. Tickle was riding very well until he crashed in Toronto and missed the rest of the year with a pretty serous back injury. Well, he’s back to 100 percent and riding well. If you’re Tickle you’re not pumped on the pay cut you had to take to remain on the team, but in this day and age of a lot of great riders not having anything, the chance to rebuild your results on a factory machine is a nice opportunity. I like this signing from a lot of different angles and I think Broc, like Jake Weimer, have a ton of motivation to do well and get back to the salad days again.
PULPMX LINKS (Matthes)
TLD KTM’s Tyler Keefe had a lot on his plate this past year with the teams switch from Honda to KTM and I talked to him about here.
Pulpmx’s Swizcore devotes some time to his own thoughts on this “Stew-Gate.”
Tony Blazier looks at what might be perhaps the best production bike ever made by Suzuki here.
Yeah, yeah, we know that JT$ put his opinions down about the 2015 SX tracks, but we did it too with David Vuillemin in his Scott column here.
BIG IN ITALY (Andras Hegyi)
Last Monday in Rome, two Italian motocross legends received some national recognition. Eight-time FIM World Champion Tony Cairoli and three-time Women's FIM World Champion (and Loretta Lynn's winner) Kiara Fontanesi received big awards. They were honored by the Italian National Olympic Committee with the Golden Collar, which is the highest award the Italian National Olympic Committee awards. Cairoli and Fontanesi were recognized for their 2014 results. Cairoli got his sixth consecutive world title in the premiere class while Fontanesi got her third consecutive world title in the women's world championship. The awards were given by the Italian Prime Minister, the first time they have gone to Italian motocrossers. The Golden Collar was established in 1995, but so far this award has never been offered to a motocross rider. In the past only road racing riders Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli, Marco Melandri, Andrea Dovizioso, Loris Capirossi, and Roberto Locatelli were honoured with this award. So Cairoli's and a Fontanesi's awards are a huge success also for Italian motocross.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Pat Scutte sent us this clip of a great pass for the lead in the AMSOIL Championship Snocross main event at Fargo, North Dakota, from last Saturday night. Elias Ishoel is a 16-year-old from Norway who won the Pro Lite (similar to MX 250 class) race with this monster launch of the finish line. That would be HUGE even on a dirt bike!
HEAD-SCRATCHING HEADLINE/S OF THE WEEK
"Prof: ‘Elf on the Shelf’ conditions kids to accept surveillance state." Eagnews.org
"Mumps Outbreak Strikes NHL" - Slate.com
Remember when we mentioned the CRAP Party for the Old-Timers in England? Rob Kinsey sent us this blog link, featuring party photos and a visit by Chuck Sun:
Congratulations to Lucas Oil 450 Pro Motocross Champion Ken Roczen on being named Cycle News' 2014 Rider of the Year. Formerly with Red Bull KTM, Roczen now rides for RCH Racing Suzuki and was named Racer X's Rider of the Year recently as well.
And congrats go out to the Pro Motocross Facebook page, which is the official Facebook page for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. They just passed a milestone too, with 325,000 followers and counting. Nick Koester gets kudos for much of that...
Finally, keep reading our 40 Years of Supercross; we’re up to 1998 and it’s pretty cool.
Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races! #FreeBubba