Saturday, September 20, 2008

Congratulations: NASCAR Adds Random Testing


In a Saturday morning press conference, NASCAR announced that in 2009 the substance abuse policy is changing. Team owners must test all licensed crew members before the season, including drivers. Those results will be reviewed by NASCAR before any team member may participate in activity at a NASCAR track. All NASCAR at-track employees will be tested by NASCAR prior to the season as well.

When the season begins, NASCAR will be randomly testing by computer generated lists a sample of all at-track personnel. This includes NASCAR employees, drivers and all team members. Aegis, an outside testing company, will administer the tests and they will be by number only. No names will be associated until a positive test result is returned and NASCAR itself matches the sample number up with a name.

NASCAR's medical officer will contact anyone with a positive test to determine the extent of the issue and if a suspension will result. One true positive test calls for immediate suspension with a NASCAR supervised program to monitor recovery.

This is a tremendously positive step for a sport that has been resistant to change and has never grasped the real issues associated with drug abuse of all types among the hundreds of people who are involved in at-track activity.

Here are some links to this story:
NASCAR To Begin Random Testing in 2009
Drug Testing For NASCAR

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23 comments:

Jo from SC said...

I think it's a tremendously positive step that NASCAR is mandating testing and I congratulate them for it. We've needed this for a long time. However, what disturbs me is that NASCAR is apparently not specifying what substances it is testing for. As someone who remembers Tim Richmond's "drug suspension" for taking Sudafed, I just wish that NASCAR would make pulbic the kinds of substances it is testing for, so that fans could have confidence that this is testing done for the right reason, not to give NASCAR an excuse to railroad someone out of the sport.

red said...

huh. even tho' it almost physically pains me to say this: good job, nascar. these are the sorts of changes to their previously (mostly non-existent) drug policy i had hoped for and i'm very grateful to nascar for implementing them.

pre-season testing across the board? check
random testing of all track personnel? check
testing done by outside agency? check
testing system is "blind" and uses no identification unless a positive result comes up? check
medical team follows up on a positive test? check
concrete consequences for a positive test? check

my remaining questions: how often will the random testing be done during the season? and what substances will aegis be testing for?

jo: the tim richmond debacle is, to me, one of the sadder episodes in nascar history. true, it was a different time and a different attitude about AIDS. but i would hope that, should a current driver find himself in that horrible situation, he would have far better medical choices and his support system would be more widespread than tim had.

red said...

forgot one more question: has nascar retained the ability to "test with cause"? can nascar request a test be run on someone if, as their previous policy put it so wonderfully vaguely, "there is reasonable cause to do so"? or has that been pulled in favor of the random testing?

Daly Planet Editor said...

jo,

NASCAR talked to the other pro sports leagues and they have decided to retain the right to test for any and all substances that may interfere with operation of a NASCAR vehicle or the performance of official or team duties. In other words, it could be anything from cough medicine to steroids. The door is open.

They cannot railroad someone out because the testing is done by number and documented by AEGIS, one of the biggest drug testing companies in the nation.

red,

Just like the other pro sports, any positive test results in the immediate testing of a "B" sample from the same person gathered at the same time. No false positives.

Testing is across the board on all three series, every single race weekend. AEGIS folks will have a computer generated random list, just like many folks in the workplace have every month.

NASCAR is not the employer of the team members or drivers, they can only implement a pathway of recovery for NASCAR employees.

It will be up to the individuals who test positive and their employers to follow the suggestions of the NASCAR Medical Officer and start the recovery process that may ultimately lead to reinstatement.

In other words, NASCAR is taking much more of an approach that a company that runs a high-tech industry would have rather than the NFL or MLB where performance-enhancement is the key issue.

NASCAR stressed safety was the top goal and a pre-season baseline, random checks and immediate suspension from participation is certainly a good way to get the ball rolling.

NASCAR also made sure to tell the media that drivers regularly tell NASCAR what prescriptions they are taking and for what purpose. That was the Ron Hornaday mistake.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daly Planet Editor said...

red,

All the policies of the past continue to be in effect, this was simply an addition to the curent plan that involves an entry level program of random testing.

As one media member told me, NASCAR has finally stepped-up to the policy Wal-Mart currently uses for screening new greeters.

JD

Jo said...

OK its killing me to say this out loud & in public.

Good job NASCAR. ouch. I went and read the reports & the details from sites about the policy & its as good & thorough as any other work place.
Anon numbered samples. No name till a positive match.

My only question & the answer may be there but I did not see it. IF someone tests positive will they be "outed" or will it be a regular workplace situation, where nothing is made public? I know we'll notice if a driver is missing(could be for something else)but, what about officials & over the wall folks? Just wondering.

red said...

thanks for the clarifications, jd! i appreciate the information -- makes me feel even better about this new policy.
love the line about nascar testing now matching that of wal-mart greeters!

Daly Planet Editor said...

The policy is the same across the board. A positive test gets an automatic re-test with a B sample.

A "true" positive, which means both samples tested positive gets a contact from the NASCAR Medical Officer directly and a discussion of the substance involved.

Once things are confirmed and a suspension is in order, then the information will be made public. As with most leagues, a first positive normally results in treatment, a second in a longer suspension and a mandatory set of treatment guidelines and a third results in a lifetime ban from the sport.

By announcing it now, NASCAR is letting everyone get comfortable with the idea and they will be presenting a handbook to all involved after the season is over. That is the same way the other pro sports do it, golf is currently in the middle of the same process.

One thing is clear, this is an expensive proposition. The teams will pay for the first baseline test done at an approved facility locally, but NASCAR is footing the bill for the field testing and all the follow-up.

JD

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

Another positive is that if there is someone that could be in the early stages of a bad disease, then maybe the company could alert Nascar and in turn the driver to it. Early detection could be the case here and that could save numerous lives. JD, am I correct here?

Good job, Nascar.

Thanks, JD, for simplifying this in easy terms to understand.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Amy,

The up-side of this policy is huge. Lots of folks who have fallen victim to the beginning stages of addiction have been "scared straight" when their livelyhood and passion for racing is about to go away permanently.

It is also a big whammy for those who might be thinking they are taking recreational drugs away from the track but are actually heading down the same addiction road.

A big problem in baseball is tired guys taking "uppers" before a game to get up and stay focused. That is why leagues test after events, because just the threat of testing can put an end to use of substances for the race/game/match.

As you mentioned, some deviations in normal health history can be seen on this type of screening and a contact from NASCAR may wind-up pointing someone to real and effective treatment.

Ron Hornaday is a good example. If NASCAR detected the excess testosterone and asked him about it, he may well have been able to get a handle on his Graves Disease long before he did.

JD

majorshouse said...

I think it is such a shame that NASCAR has to think that they have to bury their heads in the sand until a problem occurs. This was one thing that was so glaring when Earnhardt passed away and they were so slow in getting some real safety measures in place. I think that it is great that they are going to do some random drug testing and it is truly sad that they are one of the last major sports to implement such polices that seem to be so badly needed.

bevo said...

JD,
The NHRA just brought in a trailer Thursday here for a lab to do testing after the accident report about Scott Kalitta. Its on the pit side across from the tech services trailer. In the pits word is every driver is being tested, I saw a couple of crew members from Schumacher walking out of it yesterday afternoon.

majorshouse said...

I also have to say great job NASCAR. It really sounds like this is a really solid policy and get things in place now so that there won't be any misunderstanding on anyone's part.

Daly Planet Editor said...

bevo,

The NHRA is in a full-blown safety crisis and it has nothing to do with the drivers.

Many of the current NHRA tracks should never be used again after the Kalitta accident.

Even back in the 1990's when I was involved, the track safety at top end was always a concernt that was ignored for "the show."

The NHRA is about to go through a major transformation in terms of trying to return to full-length races and re-claim that the sport is legit and has a place on the landscape.

Ever seen the run-off at Pomona?

JD

bevo said...

Yep they've got a problem with some of the tracks, not here though.

The testing is really shaking everyone up though including sportsmen. Kalitta had a .02 in the toxicology report, NHRA brass is freaking out

Gymmie said...

I agree jo! I wasn't watching when Tim was still with us but I've heard how horribly he was treated :(.

I'm glad to hear this..when I tuned into Quals and Steve mentioned it.

I also hope it scares folks straight. While it didn't seem to work for a few even though a couple did get a "second chance" to come back and still blew it.

Jo said...

JD - Thanks for the update/info on when a positive will be made public.

Hopefully with all the scrutiny NASCAR has gotten no one will go through what Tim did.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the late Tim Richmond, if NASCAR would have been drug testing in the 80’s– he might still be with us.

Vicky D said...

My company does pre-employment and random drug testing (for working DOT locations), and since employees know this ahead of time, the positives have been few and far between. It's a shame that companies have to resort to this, but humans will be humans I guess.

Anonymous said...

Does anything in this new testing policy actually exclude the other penalty Nascar could impose if they felt some drug test was for a substance too egregious to merit a warning, our old friend Section 12-4-A of the Nascar rule book

"actions detrimental to stock car racing."

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:51PM,

It's really been put together well. The true positive gets a direct contact from the Med Officer, and a suspension only results after her findings are reviewed by the Doc who has been in charge of the program for years.

This is a combination of programs. One designed to help those who fall into addiction, another designed to catch those who try to enhance performance and finally one that will ID any susbstance taken for medical reasons that may interfere with performance.

After the experience with Shane Hmiel, Aaron Fike and others NASCAR wants to keep the parameters of this as broad as possible while also letting an outside company handle everything right up to the notification.

Big sports like soccer and tennis use this approach and it has worked like a charm. One big key, no driver's union or collective bargaining issue to deal with.

JD

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