The winners in the world’s toughest motorsports event may well have been juiced up on more than adrenaline. The Dakar rally raid has not conducted any dope tests for the past three years. Even this year no testing was slated to be held in the mega off-road event that ends in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.
What is most surprising is that the organising body Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) of France brushed off all responsibility to conduct any tests to ensure its event is free from competitors using any kind of performance enhancing stimulants.
Xavier Gavory, head of the competitor’s department, said on Tuesday: “In the countries covered by the event the anti-doping control is normally asked (for) by the local federations.” Gavory went on to explain that the Dakar itself can’t do any tests unless the local motorsports association or the country’s ministry of sport asks for it.
Gavory added that there have been no dope tests at the Dakar for some time now. “Over the last three years we have not been asked for any (dope) control. Except this year in Chile, a request was made by the local association. We said we would help them and support them. But unfortunately we are in Calama (last stop for the event in Chile) and the control has not been done.” Gavory also clarified that no tests are likely to be conducted this year too as no such request has been made by the authorities in Argentina. The Dakar crossed into Argentina on Wednesday for its final leg.
To the pointed query that the organisers can never be sure if a Dakar winner is competing fuelled up on performance enhancing substances, Gavory repeated the official line: “Once again, all sporting aspect is run by federal system and we have to follow the rules. Local federation have power on this type of topics (sic).”
As to just why a rich event like the Dakar could not conduct tests itself, Gavory repeated: “It’s a question of following international rules.”
The Dakar, as explained by Gavory, does not directly apply to the nodal bodies for control of the sport. It does not ask for a direct permit from the FIA (international automobile federation) or the FIM (international motorcycles federation). The FIA and FIM have very strict anti-doping rules.
According to reports in the local press, Argentina pays the Dakar $28.5m to stage the event in its territory. Chile, reportedly, gives $4m while Bolivia paid $3m for the current edition. For these South American nations the event is a great opportunity to showcase their tourism potential. As such, it would be unrealistic to expect them to look to create any kind of controversy around the event. For the organisers, with such huge money at stake – and the amount from the sponsors and competing teams just takes it all higher – dope testing does not seem to be a priority. The other big event that ASO organises is the Tour de France.