Casey Stoner talks ‘terrible’ chronic fatigue, Ducati’s ‘zero loyalty’ to riders

Casey Stoner opens up about the difficulties of living with chronic fatigue syndrome and states Ducati's 'lack of respect' for riders has worsened

Casey Stoner

Casey Stoner has opened up about his battle against chronic fatigue syndrome, revealing his condition is improving but that it made him so ‘completely useless’ for two years that he couldn’t play with his children.

The two-time MotoGP World Champion revealed in November 2020 he has been living with CFS, - otherwise known as ME - for two years, symptoms of which include difficulty thinking, sore throats, headaches and severe tiredness.

Stoner now believes a misdiagnosis of being lactose intolerant earlier on in his racing career was in fact Epstein-Barr, an energy-sapping illness that has halted the career of several riders. 

The Australian believes he was racing on while suffering with the virus and which doctors believe would go on to trigger his current condition.

“I raced with Esptein-Barr but chronic fatigue syndrome is a whole other level,” he told Australian Motorcycle News in a wide ranging interview. “It’s been terrible. I didn’t believe it existed. It started after I had my injured shoulder reconstructed in 2018. 

“When I began training after the operation I was collapsing halfway through gym sessions. Eventually I got diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I spent six months never getting any further than from the bedroom to the couch. That was it, that was my day.”

“For two years I was completely useless, even with my kids. I had no energy to do anything with them; I was just trying to survive. Then I’d have a few good days and think I was coming out of it, so I’d do a few things and then I’d have to spend another few weeks on the couch.

“It took me more than a year to learn that no matter how good I was feeling, don’t do anything. It’s had a big effect on the family. Adriana has had to pick up a lot of work because she has to look after me and the kids, but she’s been fantastic, everyone has.

A rider known for shying away from the rigours of MotoGP life off the track, very little was known about Stoner in the years leading up to his 2020 revelation. 

However, he says he has a better handle on the illness now, even though there is no certainty he will ever overcome it.

“The last few months have been the best I’ve had in three and a half years,” he continued. “I’ve felt better and more alert. Even talking to you now, I’m not forgetting words like I normally do. And I’ve learned to accept it – I’m not going through cancer. It’s debilitating, but it’s not the end of the world.”

Casey Stoner skewers Ducati for its 'lack of respect'

Regarded as something of an enigma in MotoGP terms, Stoner sensationally called an end to his racing career at the end of the 2012 season aged only 26. This was despite Honda offering to double his salary to entice him to stay.

“I’m not going to lie. The last offer I got, maybe I was stupid to turn it down, but you’re either someone who does it for the love or someone who does it for the money. I made more money than I ever imagined, so I’ve been very happy with my decision.”

In seven seasons Stoner achieved 38 wins from 115 GP starts, achieving 23 of those successes with Ducati. 

He remains the only rider to have won a world title on Ducati machinery, while he is one of only five riders to have won GP racing’s premier class with two different manufacturers after securing the 2011 title with Honda.

However, he doesn’t look back on his time at Ducati favourably and has repeatedly called out the team for the way it approached his well-being, saying he jumped ship to Honda at the first opportunity, before adding the situation at the Italian team is worse today.

“In every possible way the Honda deal was better than Ducati’s so why would I stay with them? I wasn’t getting respect there.

“I think they’re getting worse at looking after their riders. Time and again they’ve shown zero loyalty to riders because they really do believe they’ve got the best bike.”