Ex-MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone vows 2024 racing return when drugs ban ends

Andrea Iannone 'guarantees' he will return to racing when his ban for doping lifts in December 2023, vowing to be on the MotoGP or WorldSBK grid for 2024

Andrea Iannone - Aprilia MotoGP

Former MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone has vowed a return to competing at the highest levels of motorcycle racing once his lengthy suspension for doping is finally lifted.

The former Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia MotoGP rider was in the midst of preparations for the 2020 MotoGP World Championship when it was revealed he had been handed a provisional ban after testing positive for the banned substance drostanolone during a routine drugs test at the Malaysian MotoGP.

Despite protesting his innocence with a claim that he ingested contaminated meat, Iannone was handed an 18-month ban from competition, a suspension that would have ended in July 2021. 

However, after Iannone took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a counter case from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was successful in not only quashing the Italian’s appeal but also getting his ban extended to four years.

Preventing Iannone from racing or testing any racing-specification machinery, the ban remains in place until 16 December 2023.

Now, with 16 months of the ban still to run, Iannone is already making enquiries into securing a top level seat for 2024, telling Gazzetta dello Sport he ‘guarantees’ he will be back.

“I'll be back [riding]. I don't know where, how and when, if in MotoGP or Superbike, but I guarantee it: I still can't fill my life with other things [other] than the bike or the speed.

"Dancing with the Stars was like a diversion and I'm spoiled for choice for everything that’s offered to me. If I get offers from TV it means that people are interested in me, but I guarantee you that I am focused on one thing: to get back to [riding]. And I will do it.”

Could Andrea Iannone race in MotoGP again?

Blessed - or cursed? - with the nickname ‘Crazy Joe’ during a grand prix career that is as known for some exceptional performances - podium on factory Ducati debut, maiden win in Austria - as it is for some controversial incidents - taking himself and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso out of podium positions in Argentina two corners from the flag - Iannone has never been short of confidence.

Even during his time away from the spotlight, Iannone’s is a name that still attracts plenty of interest and, to his credit, while he has long protested his innocence in this rare (for motorsport) case, he has carried out his extraordinarily long term with grace.

As such, it’s no surprise Iannone is already looking towards putting those four years firmly behind him by getting back out on track.

While we’ve seen plenty of comebacks from extended periods out through injury, there are no examples of high-level riders putting more than four years between competing, not least at international level.

Strictly speaking, it seems unlikely Iannone would be on the list of any MotoGP teams for 2024. In a sport always looking for the next best thing and where there are arguably already too few seats for capable MotoGP stars, current or would-be, Iannone - who will be 34 by the time the 2024 racing season rolls around - is unlikely to be sought after.

Then, of course, there is the collateral that could come from a manufacturer and its sponsors being seen working with a convicted doper. It’s a harsh term to categorise him with, but with no real ‘privateer’ entries in MotoGP right now, that combined with the long period out would be considered too risky.

He has a better chance of competing in WorldSBK, where the lower profile surroundings soften the above point and where there are more privateer options available.

Frustratingly for him though, his closest relationship remains with Aprilia - which has always stayed on Iannone’s side - which doesn’t compete in WorldSBK because the RSV 4, a motorcycle he regularly tests in roadgoing form to stay match fit, doesn’t comply with regulations.

Despite the hurdles though, there is a general feeling across the motorsport paddock that Iannone has been treated unjustly and the length of his ban is less about the offence itself and more indicative of WADA taking the opportunity of the rare motorsport-related case to make an example of him.

With this in mind, few would begrudge him a chance at a racing return, so a well-heeled privateer WorldSBK team looking to drum up some publicity might just make Iannone the perfect solution… it doesn’t hurt that he is, of course, a talented MotoGP race winner and 11-time podium scorer.