Doping: F1 drivers taking a drug to improve performance?

Unlike many other sports, Formula 1 has never been tainted by doping scandals. But is it really going on?

Historically, the main concern of the FIA was whether F1 drivers could be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, in the case of characters such as James Hunt – from the night before. This being the case rather than whether they used substances to improve their physical performance.


Since 2005, drivers can now be checked at home, at their hotel or in their own team, and this is completely unexpected. Much like professional athletes or cyclists.

Some drivers, such as former world champion Jenson Button, nevertheless point out that controls have certainly become much more advanced in terms of searching for illegal substances, but are paradoxically far too rare. Further, the Englishman commented on the subject back in 2016 that he could not remember the last time he had been audited by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).


It is accepted within the FIA that the supposed absence of doping in F1 is mainly due to the fact that drivers are fully aware of the dangers that can result from taking products that are alleged to improve their performance.

The former FIA medical representative and friend of TJ13, Dr Gary Hartstein, went even further in the analysis, considering that among all the prohibited products, none are able to allow drivers to improve their abilities without being subjected to certain side effects (vision problems and reduced concentration).


‘Doping’ in F1 today

Nevertheless, it has been established that some drivers have used Tacrine, a drug originally developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease but which also improves visual memory.

Drivers have alleged to have been using it to more easily memorize complex configurations of some circuits. This substance is considered, despite its effects, to be totally legal. Surprising really as one should well consider using this drug as a performance enhancer, therefore ‘doping’.

As mentioned above, there has never officially been a positive test in Formula 1, but Stirling Moss, admitted to using amphetamines and other substances that are now considered illegal:

“At the time, amphetamines, Benzedrine or Dexedrine were taken simply to stay awake. It was not considered doping.” says the former F1 driver

“The whole doping situation began when athletes started using them to improve their physical condition.”

The only recognised case of “doping” in one of the FIA championships is the case of the Czech drvier Tomas Enge, who tested positive for marijuana in 2002, which led him to lose his F3000 champion title to the French pilot, Sébastien Bourdais.





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