13-year-old kart racer banned for doping

Yes, you read that headline correctly.

In case you missed it amidst all of the Martinsville coverage over the weekend, a 13-year-old Polish kart racer has received a two-year ban for failing a drug test when he was 12. It was also the first drug test that he had taken. He and his team of lawyers are appealing the ruling.

Igor Walilko of Poland is scheduled to give evidence at the Lausanne-based court on Thursday when his lawyers challenge the ban imposed by motor sport's governing body, the FIA.

Walilko was 12 when he tested positive for the banned stimulant nikethamide after an international kart race in Germany last July. It was the driver's first doping test.

Walilko's lawyer Michael Lehner tells The Associated Press the case is "very difficult" for the teenager, who was a national junior champion.

"He was very famous in Poland and, one day after, he was a criminal child," Lehner said in a telephone interview. "He has good chances to go to a career in motor sport, and now with a two-year ban it's finished."

Many Formula 1 drivers have worked their way up through the karting ranks, and Walilko won the Polish Junior title in 2009.

Unlike other stimulants that can potentially help with reaction times — an obvious benefit for a racer — nikethamide is a respiratory stimulant and has been used by cyclists and runners. Exceptions can be made for nikethamide if the driver can prove how the substance was taken. A ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected in a few weeks.

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