Eurovision-Winning Band Leader Did Not Use Drugs, Broadcaster Says

The vernacular of rock ’n’ roll frequently revolves around drugs, but when the winning band’s lead singer hunched over a table in a sniffing motion during this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the showcase was shaken by speculation of cocaine use.

The singer, Damiano David of Maneskin, the Italian glam-rock band that took home the crown on Saturday night for its song “Zitti E Buoni,” was later asked to explain his peculiar behavior in an awkward news conference exchange with a Swedish journalist. He denied any wrongdoing, but the European Broadcasting Union, the show’s broadcaster, said it would investigate the episode at the request of the Italian delegation.

On Monday, the show’s organizers announced that Mr. David had voluntarily taken a drug test and passed it.

It punctuated a tumultuous few days for the Eurovision Song Contest, the long-running musical spectacle that was supposed to herald a triumphant return to in-person cultural events in Europe after the coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to cancel last year’s event.

“No drug use took place in the Green Room and we consider the matter closed,” the European Broadcasting Union said in a statement. “We are alarmed that inaccurate speculation leading to fake news has overshadowed the spirit and the outcome of the event and unfairly affected the band.”

About 200 million people watched this year’s contest, which was held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and was broadcast live in 39 countries and on YouTube, according to the organizers. It culminated with viewers and national juries voting Maneskin as the winners, a source of national pride in Italy, one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries during the pandemic.

But the band’s moment of nirvana — adding its name to a list of contest winners that have included Celine Dion and Abba — quickly devolved into controversy.

While he was seated with the band’s other members on a couch offstage in a green room, Mr. David, 22, the band’s tattooed frontman, briefly bent his face down toward the table in front of him, footage showed. Mr. David’s face was obstructed by a tub with bottles of beer and other beverages in it. The band member seated to his right appeared to nudge him and he quickly sat back up.

The footage swiftly ricocheted across the internet and prompted an awkward exchange between an unidentified Swedish reporter and Mr. David, who had just finished dousing his bandmates with Champagne.

“Online, people are suggesting that you were taking cocaine,” the reporter said. “What was it?”

Mr. David denied the speculation, saying that he bent down because another band member had broken a glass.

“I don’t use drugs, please, guys,” he said. “No, please don’t say that. Don’t say that, really. No cocaine. Please, don’t say that.”

A moderator of the news conference quickly tried to cut off the line of questioning.

“Let’s keep the questions about the artists and the music for tonight,” she said.

The European Broadcasting Union said in a statement on Sunday that a broken glass had been found after a check of the site.

Barbara Pravi, the French singer, finished second at Eurovision.

Before the show’s broadcasters announced that Mr. David had passed a drug test, Clément Beaune, the French minister of state for European affairs, suggested during an interview with the television network BFMTV on Monday that there should be sanctions against Maneskin, including the band’s possible disqualification, if Mr. David tested positive for drugs.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Ms. Pravi said that Maneskin’s win was well deserved and that the band had been chosen by the viewers. She said it was their victory and their moment.

As the band’s members hoisted the glass microphone trophy that is given to the winners of Eurovision, Mr. David declared that rock ’n’ roll was here to stay.

“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world,” he said, “rock ’n’ roll never dies.”

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