Aprilia MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone has been handed an 18-month competition ban for an anti-doping infringement, but prosecutors conclude he did not purposefully take steroids.
The one-time MotoGP race winner tested positive for an anabolic steroid during a routine WADA drugs test at last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, with a follow-up sample also testing positive.
Iannone was handed a suspension from the FIM in the winter while the case was taken to trial, with Iannone submitting hair samples – a supposedly more accurate way of testing – in a bid to prove his innocence.
The Aprilia rider has always maintained his innocence, claiming from the start that ingestion of the steroid came from contaminated food.
An FIM disciplinary hearing found Iannone had eaten contaminated meat, but could not be fully acquitted, and will serve a ban of a period of 18 months from 17 December 2019 to 16 June 2021.
Iannone will appeal the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, though it is unclear when this hearing will be held.
This decision throws Iannone’s relationship with Aprilia into doubt, as CEO Massimo Rivola having stated earlier in the year that a lengthy ban for the Italian would likely result in the termination of their partnership.
Test rider Bradley Smith would likely be called up to take his place in that instance.
However, the current coronavirus pandemic and the forced delay to the current MotoGP campaign could throw Iannone a lifeline should he secure a CAS hearing promptly.
Iannone joined Aprilia last season following a disappointing two-year stint with Suzuki.
Amid a largely difficult campaign, Iannone gave Aprilia a best result of sixth at the Australian Grand Prix and put the RS-GP in the lead of a race for the first time at Phillip Island – albeit for only a handful of corners.
A statement from Aprilia will follow in due course.