Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: NASCAR Takes the Long Way Around the Barn With New Drug Policy

I came across a quote by Sir Barnett Cocks the other day that reminded me of the pansies that run NASCAR:

“A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured – and then quietly strangled.”

The “idea,” in this case, is NASCAR’s new drug-testing policy and – while it was not strangled – it definitely had no business being in that neighborhood in the first place.

For years, NASCAR mouthpieces have said that they have one of the best drug-testing policies around. As well they should… considering the environment of the NASCAR “workplace” includes 43 drivers going around at speeds up to 200 mph.

“NASCAR has a zero tolerance for any type of behavior in violation of our Substance Abuse Policy,” President Mike Helton once explained. “While our primary responsibility is the safety of our drivers and our fans, we also have a moral responsibility to protect the integrity of our sport.”

That policy was challenged just last year, after Truck Series driver Aaron Fike was arrested for possession and use of heroin. But NASCAR’s Managing Director of Corporate Communications, Ramsey Poston, once again gave us assurance that their policy was more than enough.

“We have much broader authority than other professional leagues,” said Poston. “We can take action based on physical signs of droopy eyes, slurred speech, etc. And there aren’t many secrets inside the garage area, so in that respect we have some help there as well. Everyone understands what it is. The action is swift and impacting.”

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“No system is perfect,” added Jim Hunter, NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications. “Our current policy has served us extremely well. We do have discussions from time to time regarding possible alternatives, so I wouldn’t rule those out. But I think what our policy has allowed us to do up to this certain point in time has served us well.”

All those quotes were from the not too distant past, but the last one by Mr. Hunter was the understatement of the year – making him a prime example of an artful spinmaster. But wait! If you thought that was good, listen to what has been said since NASCAR announced its “amended” drug policy to go into effect in 2009 – words uttered by none other than the Master of Spin, Brian France. (Side note: BSNews has learned that Brian was once a hip-hop DJ at a local night club and continues to occasionally scratch an album or two on amateur night. Look for a full story in later issues of BSNews.)

“We have made a very good policy even better with the addition of random tests,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO France. “NASCAR’s policy has long given us the ability to test anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Random tests now provide us and the industry with additional information.”

Just exactly how dumb is this, man? Or how stupid does he think we are? Considering the old policy gave them the ability to test “anyone, anywhere, at anytime,” I would say that that was pretty “random” to start with!

So, what is so special about these “new” random tests, you ask? The answer’s simple: they are actually going to test someone!

Yes, the real and simple truth here is that the old policy, as it stood, was fine – by NASCAR’s own words, it gave them the authority to test anyone, anytime. As a result, the only “amending” that needed to be done in this case was to the accounting books! Because up until some negative publicity forced them to take a stand, NASCAR simply did not want to spend the money to test anyone.

For if the safety of the drivers, fans, and the moral integrity of the sport is their first and foremost concern, why does it take NASCAR brass many months to finally decide that, “Oh, maybe we should use our policy once in awhile?”

When Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and others said earlier this year that they have never been tested, why couldn’t NASCAR simply have said, “OK boys, let’s test everyone, right now?!” Why does it take months to come up with an “amended” policy? If France was so smart, and really wanted to keep his money, at the very least NASCAR could have mandated that the teams must provide independent proof that all track personnel have been tested at least once a year.

But France did none of that – instead, his sport decided to come up with an “amendment” that was really a repeat of everything they were supposed to be doing in the first place. So, while it is good that NASCAR has finally decided to actually implement the policy, it simply amazes me that the organization, as a whole, is run like a class A cluster #*@k.

And as for the teams, drivers, and NASCAR officials… party up, boys! You got ’till February ’09 to clean your systems out!

Stay off the wall (and off the drugs!),

Jeff Meyer

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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