Moto Mondays: The James Stewart Incident

Image property of Transworld Motocross.

Image property of Transworld Motocross.

Just as the pros did, I thought I was going to have a bye week for writing about motocross this week. However, something pretty freaking big just happened to come up over the course of the last several days, being one of the first major cases of alleged PED use in the motocross world with the subject being one of the most popular racers in the sport’s history.

James Stewart, a premier 450 rider and legend who is (was) a favorite to win the outdoor nationals motocross title this year, has been suspended by the FIM for allegedly failing a drug test that took place during the weekend of supercross in Seattle on April 12, 2014. The FIM claimed that Stewart’s urine sample contained an “adverse analytical finding of amphetamine.” Stewart can request and attend an analysis of a B sample in an attempt to clear his name and hopefully cancel out his suspension.

Outside of the issues that this arises for Stewart and his reputation, here are the problems with this:

1) Stewart and the rest of the world did not find out he had failed the test until June 17, over two months after the drug test was administered. If this is really such a serious issue, why did it take so long to release these results? Why did the FIM not take action immediately? And why are only certain riders “randomly” selected for these drug tests in the first place, instead of the entire field of both factory riders and privateers?

2) According to Stewart’s team, the traces of amphetamine found in his urine were most likely from a drug that Stewart has been prescribed to by his physician to treat ADHD. Those in opposition to Stewart are claiming that these drugs can enhanced mental and physical focus, thus giving the rider an edge in racing that others do not have. However, if Stewart actually has an ADHD condition, wouldn’t these drugs instead only be leveling him with other riders to regulate his body to react normally so that he doesn’t lose focus? Given the amount of times over the past few years that Stewart seemed “out-of-it” and even crashed randomly while in the lead or near the front of the pack in races, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did have ADHD and it had been affecting his racing negatively.

Fans in opposition to Stewart are calling him a cheater, a disgrace, and more. Those in support of Stewart are citing his condition needed to be treated, that he did nothing wrong, and that the people accusing James of foul play are just “haters” that want to see him lose. The thing is, with motocross just pushing the edge of major popularity, most fans have already made up their mind about what they think about Stewart before this incident ever occurred, and are using the opportunity to further their own judgements. The reality is, most of the haters really are just hating, and most of the fans really are just fanning out.

It is interesting to consider that in the old years of motocross, there were no drug tests administered. As my father, a former recreational racer told me, most of the guys racing back then at any level were just “country boys having fun.” There wasn’t as much money or national attention as the sport has garnered now, and according to my father, half of the guys would probably fail drug tests, not necessarily for PEDs though.

From my own point of view, I hope Stewart can appeal this successfully and hopefully put it behind him and get back into the mix of the 450 class as soon as possible. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the most interesting riders that has the ability to shake things up in a sport that fiends off excitement.

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