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NASCAR must handle drug testing with consistency

By admin | May 13, 2009

By Richard Allen

In the wake of a former driver’s apparent suicide, NASCAR had another drug related issue to come up on Saturday as teams prepared for the Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway.

Earlier in the week, former driver Kevin Grubb was found dead in a Richmond hotel of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been suspended for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy in 2006. In that instance Grubb had actually refused to submit to a drug test after a race in Richmond. It was his second drug related violation.

This time, it was Jeremy Mayfield who had the garage area and media center all abuzz prior to the running of Saturday’s event.

Although NASCAR did not release the type of substance to have been found in Mayflield’s system after testing that had taken place in Richmond, it was confirmed to be something other than alcohol. Mayfield contends he failed the test due to a combination of over-the-counter medications he had taken for allergies.

NASCAR has come to be somewhat infamous for its inconsistent handing out of penalties when rule violations have occurred. Media, fans and even the competitors themselves have often implied or even outright accused the sanctioning body of playing favorites when it comes to the matter of racing jurisprudence.

In this instance there must never be even the appearance of playing favorites. Drug issues must be dealt with promptly, severely and consistently every time.

Whether the names involved are Kevin Grubb and Jeremy Mayfield or  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon, these violations have to be handled the right way, the only way.

There are lives at stake. Grubb’s situation demonstrates that. And more, not only are the lives of the violators at stake but so too are the lives of other drivers and crew members who may pay the ultimate price for someone else’s indiscretion.

Driving a race car is a tricky and somewhat dangerous proposition when completely sober. Going 180mph while ‘high’ or ‘stoned’ borders on the suicidal and even murderous.

Drug violations are not even in the same league with having the rear of a car being ¼ of an inch too high in post-race inspection. An illegal substance found in a fuel cell is far different from an illegal substance found in a driver or crew member.

NASCAR says that every driver has been tested at least once since the beginning of the 2009 season. The sanctioning body must continue to be vigilant in that regard.

According to NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter during a press conference in Darlington just before Saturday’s Southern 500, there are as many as 15 competitors tested every week. That number includes drivers and crew members. While most of the tests are random, the organization reserves the right to select those who are to be tested when they believe they have probable cause.

With drivers today being so young and having so much money at their disposal there is always the terrible temptation of drug use. NASCAR has the obligation to control substance abuse among its competitors. And more importantly, it has the obligation to do so fairly and consistently.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

4 Responses to “NASCAR must handle drug testing with consistency”

  1. cindy Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 7:26 am

    NASCAR did not invent the zero tolerance drug policy. I worked for years under the DOT, and the policy was the same. At the beginning all employees were tested and then randomly by computer.

    There was NEVER a desputed drug result that was overturned. The science is very good.

  2. Julia Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I would love to give Jemery the benifit of the doubt. I do however, have a problem with the reason he gives for failing the drug test. I take 2 different allergy meds. One of them is OTC Alavert-D, the other is a perscription medicine. I have taken a drug test during the time I have been taking both meds. I passed with no problems. I did however tell the people giving the test what medicines I was taking. Maybe Mayfield forgot to tell them, or maybe he just took more then he should have. I don’t know, but I would love to know the final answers to it all.

  3. Overra88ted Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 9:33 am

    If Carl Edwards uses Claritin to keep alert and focused on and off the race track, why can’t Jeremy Mayfield? Check out NA$CRAP has their A$$ in bind big time on this one, because of Claritin being a NA$CRAP sponsor. NA$CRAP WILL NEVER ADMIT Claritin was the drug ID’d in Mayfield’s failed test. FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jeremy should get the best lawyer he can find and force the issue. Can you say “Out of court settlement”?

  4. Kevin Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    All NASCAR has to say is it wasn’t pseudoephedrine sulfate which is the active ingredient in Claritan-D, the supposed OTC drug used. They said it wasn’t alcohol so they could say it wasn’t pseudoephedrine sulfate (legally speaking). If it’s not this OTC that pumps so much money into NASCAR, then just say it and get over all of the speculation. If it is, that’s why you don’t here word one from NASCAR.