Every day new events postponed. Every hour new questions…How do you live through the coronavirus crisis when you are the President of an International Sports Federation?
Are we free to choose, what are the consequences? A 63-year-old economist and President of the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) since 2018, Jorge Viegas also mentioned doping concerns in an exclusive interview conducted by Jean-Claude Schertenleib, in Qatar last weekend “La Tribune de Genève and 24 Heures “, published in Switzerland Friday 13 March.
The coronavirus, we imagine it is worse for a President of an International Sports Federation?
I hope yes, but I refuse to dramatize. I am not a virologist; it is not for me to say what can, what will happen in the future. I chair a sports federation, which also manages other motorcycling activities, such as tourism, mobility. Our goal is to be able to follow all our activities.
With the promoters of the various disciplines, you are actors. But in this case, you are mainly spectators of political decisions?
Yes. We will always follow the directions of governments and the World Health Organisation. We recognise that the spread of the disease must be stopped. Unfortunately, a state of general panic now exists. And the worst danger is this: collective hysteria.
For the past week, each day has brought back new events. However, there are only 52 weekends in a year. Can we imagine that some championships will end at Christmas?
Yes, If necessary. Imagine that several events have yet to be cancelled and that we have to resume racing much later, well, we will go as far as it takes to keep championships worthy of the name. If it is necessary, we will go until January 2021. For us, it is not taboo.
Economically, there is going to be collateral damage. All these cancellations / postponements, the season that could be extended, all this has costs?
Of course, and if we get out of our little motorcycle world for a moment, we have to worry about the global consequences. Factories are shut down, schools closed, all economic activity slows down. There will be consequences, but they are still difficult to quantify.
MotoGP is the showcase for FIM sporting activities. But there are other disciplines, such as superbike, motocross, trial, enduro, etc. If so, do you follow the priorities by saying: “We first ensure a maximum of MotoGP races and after that we will see for the rest”?
Not at all. Things are not in conflict between our different championships, which represent the great diversity of our sport.
In terms of media coverage, cross-interest and economically – does this multiplicity not become a handicap?
In all human activities, hierarchies are created in the public, this is the case with us. The great success of F1? Simple, in the world, it represents the top of motorsport. While there are also rallies, tourism, endurance. With us, it’s a bit the same with MotoGP, although the popularity of the motocross world championship is increasing, which is very pleasing.
But the general public could be lost, shouldn’t we restrict the offering?
On the contrary, and we are currently working on a new discipline, the e-bike, reserved for electric bikes. There were first races last year, an internal commission has been created and a first FIM Cup is planned, with events in Europe and Asia; I just learned that the United States was also very interested. So no, there are not too many disciplines, there is a motorcycle sport for everyone, in all its forms. An ice race is nothing like a circuit race, but come see one, you will be overcome!
Let’s move on. Before the current crisis erupted, a burning dossier was on your desks: the positive test for nandrolone (an anabolic steroid) by the Italian MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone. However, we are still awaiting judgment…
The FIM president has nothing to do with the trial. It has been examined by the lawyers for the two parties, who have sent the various documents they deemed necessary and a committee of three judges, all very experienced, who will very soon give its decision. Afterwards, there will be the possibility of an appeal to the CAS, both on the part of Iannone and his employer, Aprilia, if the sanction is considered too severe; or on the part of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) if it considers that the sanction is not sufficient.
Do the specifics of motorcycle sport always go hand in hand with the list of products prohibited by WADA?
With us, skill, psyche and courage are more important than brute physical strength. Not to mention the problem of painkillers. I plan to meet the new president of WADA, Witold Banka, to see if it would be possible to have a list more suited to our sport.
Picture Caption: The President of the International Motorcycling Federation, Jorge Viegas remains optimistic despite facing the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis © FIM