Czech racing driver denied greatest success of career over cannabis

Driver Tomas Enge, photo: CTK

Two weeks ago the Czech racing driver Tomas Enge must have been feeling on top of the world, when he achieved the greatest success of his career by winning the Formula 3000 world championship. Now, however, Mr Enge has been stripped of his title, and his motor racing career may never recover. The reason - a drug test which revealed the prescence of cannabis in his blood.

Driver Tomas Enge,  photo: CTK
There was shock in Czech sports circles when it was announced - just two days before the crucial, final Formula 3000 race of the season - that the Czech driver Tomas Enge had tested positive for drugs after a previous race which he had won. The drug in question also came as a huge surprise; it wasn't an amphetamine or steroid but cannabis. With the prospect of a disciplinary hearing on October 1 hanging over him, Mr Enge somehow managed to keep his composure and win the final race, and with it the championship.

Judgement day arrived on Tuesday, and it was not a happy day for Tomas Enge. Racing's governing body the FIA docked him ten points, thereby denying him the greatest success of his career. Mr Enge has a philosophical attitude to the controversy.

"Of course it's not an easy ruling to take, but I fully accept it. For me it's really important that I can keep racing. As for the question of an appeal, I have to look into it with my manager and our lawyers. I can only decide about that after we carefully analyse the whole situation."

If Tomas Enge, who is 26, does not win an appeal, his career may never recover. At the end of the 2001 season he drove in three Formula 1 races as a substitute. Now his chance of making a permanent move to one of the world's most popular and lucrative sports may have evaporated, and there have also been suggestions that sponsors and advertisers may give him a wide berth.

Some sports do not include maruijana on their lists of banned substances, though unfortunately for Mr Enge, it is banned in motor racing. The Liberec-born driver claims he has never smoked the drug, and says he does not know how it entered his system. He refuses to offer any theories on the matter. Mr Enge is clear about one thing however; the last three weeks have been the hardest of his life.