Broc Tickle is walking through the pits at the Daytona Supercross, visiting with old friends and teammates, signing the occasional autograph, and just catching up with a sport he’s dedicated almost his entire life to. Tickle, 29, used to be a factory rider for the Red Bull KTM team. One year ago at this time, he was the eighth-ranked rider in the series, just a few points behind Cooper Webb, who was then with Monster Energy Yamaha. Now Webb has Tickle’s spot at KTM and holds the 2019 series points lead. Tickle, of course, is no longer ranked, because he’s not allowed to race. He’s been on provisional suspension since April 13, 2018. By the time you read this, his suspension will have dragged on almost a full year. He’s unemployed, with an uncertain future; as a professional athlete, time is not on his side. He’s also still waiting for his day in court.
On February 13, 2018, Tickle finished fifth at the San Diego Supercross. Afterward, he was one of ten riders tested by the FIM as part of their anti-doping procedures. Six weeks later, just before the press-day ride at the Minneapolis SX, Tickle received an email from the FIM legal department telling him he was provisionally suspended, effective immediately. He had tested positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine, which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It’s the same stimulant that Australian road racer Anthony West tested positive for in 2012. West was at first suspended by the FIM for one month, but then WADA asked for a harsher sentence before the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Despite an appeal by West, he was ultimately suspended for 18 months.
Tickle says he never saw it coming, and his search for answers began immediately. “I read [the email] and I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. I called the team, I called Aldon [Baker], I called everybody,” he says. As the stadium’s parking lot filled up with big rigs, Tickle flew home to get himself tested in a lab. He says he tested clean and in accordance with the WADA code. He had the supplements he was taking at the time tested; they also checked out.
As a Red Bull KTM rider, Tickle was living and working out at Aldon Baker’s Florida training facility alongside his teammate Marvin Musquin, soon-to-be 2018 AMA Supercross Champion Jason Anderson, and more. Both Tickle and Baker claimed to have no previous knowledge of methylhexaneamine—Baker said he had to Google it to even figure out that it was a banned stimulant. To this day, both say they have no idea how it got into Tickle’s system; Baker says that any supplements his riders take are tested by an independent lab so he knows exactly what’s in them.