Friday, February 20, 2009

Exploring another side of the NASCAR drug policy

FONTANA, Calif. – It’s hard to take any position that even suggests opposition to drug testing in any manner, and it’s hard to try to have any kind of nuanced opinion on the matter, either.

Like a lot of things in our culture, people want to keep things simple on this issue. If you’re using drugs, you should be punished. If you’re not using drugs, you should be absolutely willing to be tested at any time for any reason. Otherwise, you must have “something to hide.”

On Thursday NASCAR revealed the name of a Sprint Cup team member who had been suspended for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy following new, stricter drug testing implemented this year.

On the one hand, you have to understand why NASCAR released the name. One goal of any drug policy is deterrence, and the idea of having yourself identified as a violator would seem to have that impact. If you don’t want to have your name announced, don’t use drugs.

Another reason is that if NASCAR hadn’t announced the name and then someone had found out about the suspension, it might have been a much bigger story than it is.

But there is another side to this.

We don’t know what substance it was that this person was found to have used that violated the policy. NASCAR hasn’t come out with a specific list of what’s OK and what’s not, and there are people in the garage who’re scared to take just about anything for fear of winding up being singled out as a “druggie.”

What if you’ve got a runny nose and you decided to take cold medicine? Will that trigger a positive if you happen to be selected for random testing that day?

Another question is whether the true intent of a policy should be punishment instead of treatment. If a crew member tests positive, should the first action be to suspend him or her indefinitely or should it be to try to work with that team employee to address whatever situation he or she might be in?

I know that a lot of you will say that the first thing ought to be getting an offender out of the sport, and if you’re talking about a driver or somebody who has his or her hands on the race car that’s going to be on the track with 42 others, then there’s a safety issue involved. So it is hard to defend someone who tests positive. That’s not my intent.

But I am just wondering if it wouldn’t be more productive, in the long run, to have a policy that doesn’t have “indefinite suspension” as the penalty for a first offense. Maybe the first offense should trigger some sort of mandatory counseling and/or treatment program, paid for by NASCAR, to address the issue while not necessarily turning every positive test into a media event.

19 comments:

jamie in n.c. said...

my biggest question about the drug policy is what constitutes reasonable suspicion? lets say a driver is penalized 5 laps for intentionally causing an accident at 185 mph. if nascar feels this guy has that disregard for his fellow driver, perhaps that is irrational behavior. irrational behavior should be a criteria for a random drug test. if jason leffler didnt take a drug test following his penalty, nascars drug policy isnt worth the paper it is written on.

this is no means a personal attack on jason leffler. in no way do i feel he is an abuser. but in nascar's eyes, he committed an act in total disregard for his fellow competitors. thus if nascar didnt test him, just what does a person have to do to get tested other than 'their number coming up'.

Holleracha said...

I agree that there should be an "quiet" treatment option for the first offender followed by weekly monitering for an extended period. Drivers and over the wall crew should be held to a higher standard as far as prescription & over the counter stuff is concerned. Cant do some things under the influence. It doesnt take a genius to figure out what.
I went to a pre-race party at The Rock where several drivers (none current) were drinking heavily the night (actually the same morning!) before the race. One was unconcious and had to be carried away. The next morning I woke up with such a hangover I could barely make it to the track. All the drivers made the race. Mr Unconcious made the top ten!

Mike Hutton said...

David, I was with you right up until the end until the phrase "at NASCAR's expense."

No, no-no, no-no-no-no-no-no, as Bagley would say.

One of our many societal problems today is the failure of many to accept personal responsibility for their actions when they don't like the outcome. It must be someone else's fault.

Got busted for drugs? Wonderful. Go pay for your own treatment. Come back when you're clean.

Holleracha said...

I would hope that any employer would volunteer to send their employee to treatment. Making it manditory would put smaller employers at a disadvantage, but in a business where so much money is spent on positive publicity...

Michael said...

As for an employer paying for treatment, NASCAR is the sanctioning body, The pcrewperson is suspended from NASCAR, not his team, seems to me the employer(team owner) should be the one figuring out how to go about treatment to lift the suspension.

3KillerBs said...

Why on earth should anyone, other than the druggie himself, pay for the treatment?

Drug use is not an accident. It is not a mistake. It is a deliberate, intentional CHOICE to so something you know full well is forbidden.

There are no excuses and there is no reason to hand out easy forgiveness -- especially in a field where there are plenty of skilled people available due to lay-offs.

The main thing about this guy's drug use is that it ensures his prior employer that they picked the right person to lay off when they tightened up their operations.

If a mentally competent adult wants to throw his career away that his CHOICE to make. Neither Nascar nor his team need to anything to protect him from the consequences of the CHOICE he made.

Sydney said...

Well said Mike Hutton, could not agree more.

Ken said...

Reasonable suspicion? My wife almost never watches a race but she did on Sunday. When Jr. missed his pit, she said something was wrong. Then when he was penalized for missing the pit box, she said she thought he was on something. Then when he wrecked the front of the fiels, she said she was sure he was on drugs. Reasonable suspicion?

Bob Miller said...

I do have to agree with you, a positive test should be dealt with by treatment at a known facility (The Official Rehab of NASCAR) that won't bankrupt the person, as rehab is pricey. That being said, they made known that you would or could be be tested at any time so lay of the drugs during the season. I second the miss your pit, earn a drug test rule.

Anonymous said...

I say test every driver,crew member,and team owner.If thier at the track in the garage everyweek test them all.Test them every 90 days for sure and random in between.

Mike in NJ said...

The problem with the drug policy is specifics. For example, how many of you have had "the runs", and taken Immodium? Did you know that the active ingredient, loperamide, is an opioid agonist, in the same family as the powerful narcotic Demerol? Granted, loperamide works on a different receptor, but will popping a couple of Immodiums trigger a "false positive"? How about taking an OTC cough syrup with dextromethorphan? Yes, DXM is abuseable, but you'd probably get sick from the syrup long before you'd feel the DXM effects.

So, where does one draw a line? Will drivers and pit crew have to go to an "official doctor" of NASCAR for common cold and flu remedies that do NOT affect their abilities on the track?

I agree completely that illegal drugs, and abuse of prescription drugs require strong action, but you would be very surprised what common items will trigger a false positive.

Holleracha said...

Ap story
Mayfield crew member fails NASCAR drug test
Thu Feb 19, 8:34 pm ETDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A crew member for Jeremy Mayfield's team has been suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR's new substance abuse policy.

Paul Chodora failed a mandatory test Feb. 11 at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR said Thursday. He's the first person punished under a policy that went into effect this season.

"Mayfield Motorsports respects the decision by NASCAR to indefinitely suspend Paul Chodora," Mayfield said in a statement. "We as an organization appreciate NASCAR's drug testing policies and policing efforts as it makes the sport stronger overall. If Paul doesn't comply with NASCAR's reinstatement process, then he will no longer be an employee of Mayfield Motorsports."

NASCAR required all crew members to be tested before the start of the season, but because Mayfield's team was formed in January, Chodora was not tested until activities were under way for last weekend's season opener.

NASCAR did not reveal what Chodora did for Mayfield's team.

Mel said...

If I am in a car with someone riding up my butt at 185mph, I would hope they ahd the common sense that if they had the sniffles tehy had the backup driver drive and he stayed home with his germs and any OTC, Prescriptionor illegal substance that can a lter his itchy watery eyes. I want him to see me a nd not hit me

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