By admin | May 13, 2009
By Richard Allen
In the wake of a former driverâ€™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 NASCARâ€™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 Saturdayâ€™s event.
Although NASCAR did not release the type of substance to have been found in Mayflieldâ€™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 orÂ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon, these violations have to be handled the right way, the only way.
There are lives at stake. Grubbâ€™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 elseâ€™s indiscretion.
Driving a race car is a tricky and somewhat dangerous proposition when completely sober. Going 180mph while â€˜highâ€™ or â€˜stonedâ€™ borders on the suicidal and even murderous.
Drug violations are not even in the same league with having the rear of a car being Â¼ 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 Saturdayâ€™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.
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