The height of the summer sporting season is passing and once again two sports are left to rue another year spoiled by drugs scandals.
In cycling, Floyd Landis faces being stripped of his Tour de France victory after testing positive for excessive and unnatural levels of testosterone. In athletics, world and Olympic 100 metres champion Justin Gatlin faces a lifetime ban for the same violation having committed another offence in 2001.
Of the many controveries and tragedies that have struck Formula One in the years I have been watching it, the sport has never had its reputation sullied in the way that it would were a driver to be found using performance enhancing drugs.
In 2002, then Formula 3000 championship leader Tomas Enge (pictured winning the A1 Grand Prix of Shanghai earlier this year) famously failed a drugs test for cannabis (emphatically not a performance enhancing drug) and the points he was stripped of caused him to lose the F3000 title that year.
Back in the 1950s, five time champion Juan Manuel Fangio is believed to have used yerba mate, a legal (but strong) drug, to improve his stamina.
But the very fact that no F1 driver has ever tested positive for drugs leads to the question – what would happen if they did? NASCAR faced this very question only recently and gave Shane Hmiel a life suspension after testing positive for a substance (it was not decalred what substance) a third time in February.
Is that good enough? Should F1, like athletics, ban drivers permanently for two violations? I would go further and suggest that any driver who commits even a single drug infraction in Formula One should be banned permanently. The ramifactions of a serious and/or fatal accident involving a Formula One driver whom it later emerged was using drugs are unthinkable.
Happily, this is one controversy that F1 has stayed well clear of. I’m completely confident it will stay that way.
- The Times: Cycling – Landis looks to get off on a technicality (external)
- The Times: Gatlin looks to ‘exceptional circumstances’ for appeal (external)
- NASCAR.com – Failed drugs test earns Hmiel ‘lifetime ban’ (external)