The Frontstretch: Think Twice Before Playing Poker With Aaron Fike by Jeff Meyer -- Saturday April 12, 2008

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Think Twice Before Playing Poker With Aaron Fike

Voices From the Heartland : Special Edition! · Jeff Meyer · Saturday April 12, 2008


It often appears that the suits in NASCAR hold all the cards; they are usually confident that no matter what the circumstances, they always have four aces up their collective sleeves. But a young driver named Aaron Fike — in his bid for eventual re-instatement as a NASCAR competitor — may have just laid down a Royal Flush.

Fike's recent admission that he used heroin on days he was scheduled to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series before he was suspended in July of '07 has left many in the racing world stunned, and at the very least, has Brian France and his court jesters frantically searching for a napkin to wipe the egg from their faces. One of the reasons Fike's admission is so stunning is because it is a 180 degree turn around from statements he made in an Associated Press interview last year, after undergoing 4 months of intense rehab.

“I was sporadic in my use. It wasn’t every day,” the 25-year-old driver said last November. “I made sure I was clean when I went to the track. But it was definitely consuming my life.”

While part of Fike's story has remained the same since this whole ordeal started — including the fact that he was addicted to painkillers for about six years prior — he now asserts that his "sporadic" once a week heroin use became a daily habit he couldn’t kick… even on race days.

Now of and by itself, Fike's daily admission normally would not have any effect on the powers that be in the ivory towers in Daytona. In fact, they are ignorant enough, and think people are stupid enough, that they would probably sit back, dislocate their own shoulders patting themselves on the back, saying something to the effect that their enforcement of NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy is working splendidly. The reasons that their shoulders are still in their sockets, however, can now be counted on three fingers: Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne.

We’ll get to that in a minute; but first, let’s back up a few years to see how this controversy began.

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.”

Helton said that in September of 2003, following the first suspension of then-Busch Series driver Shane Hmiel. Hmiel, who was re-instated to drive in February of '04, was suspended a second time in June of that same year for violating this same policy. Ironically, Mike Helton was quoted, verbatim, of the above in March of '04, when Kevin Grubb was suspended (the first time). Having said it twice, one would think that NASCAR is super serious about all this!

In June of 2005, I penned a column here on FS that basically said that NASCAR had no intention of "seriously" policing the sport. I said back then that, while they may go after the little guy, once he gets in trouble NASCAR wouldn't dare to test any of the big name drivers for fear of what they may find. I did not say that any big names were, in fact dirty; I just said that NASCAR never would take a chance on finding out. Too much corporate money would be at stake, making it a financial risk the sanctioning body was simply unwilling to swallow. I caught a lot of guff for that column; and NASCAR, meanwhile, continued to assert that they were tough on the issue.

In 2007, after Fike's initial arrest, NASCAR's Managing Director of Corporate Communications, Ramsey Poston, once again gave us assurance that NASCAR's 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.”

This brings us back to the present day. In the response to Fike’s admissions this week within that very same garage, we now see just exactly how "everyone understands what it is,” and why those three reasons I mentioned earlier (Harvick, Stewart and Kahne) make Fike's daily heroin use admission so embarrassing to NASCAR.

“In the 10 years that I’ve raced, I’ve never been drug tested,” said Kevin Harvick, reacting to Fike's latest statements. “To me, that’s not a proper drug policy for a professional sport. We haven’t made any headway whatsoever on the drug testing policy. I have been in a race with him, and I know for a fact that he’s not the only one.”

Well, so much for there not being many secrets in the garage! Even though NASCAR may have had its head in the sand, others had their suspicions.

“I definitely wondered about Aaron, so I’m sure others did,” said Kasey Kahne. “When he said he did heroin before a race, that’s incredible that no one knew. As much money as there is in this sport, I think we should take a little more effort to make sure every driver is clean.”

“I’ve never been asked to take one yet,” added Tony Stewart to the debate. “I think it should be mandatory to have random drug testing. I think it’s a great idea. The Fike situation shows that as an organization, we’re not doing a good job of seeing this before it happens.”

At this point I must say — the column that I penned in '05 not withstanding — it simply amazes me that, even though I have been proved right, the likes of Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick HAVE NEVER BEEN CHECKED ONCE! That is simply ludicrous!

How does all this play to Aaron Fike's favor? It accomplishes a small goal that he set out to do; make NASCAR rethink its current drug testing policy, something the sport had been cleverly avoiding. And it’s working; three big names have basically backed him up, exposing NASCAR's ineptitude to give his admissions maximum impact.

Currently, Fike is racing in the USAC Midget series, where he is tested each and every time he goes to the track. Could that kind of thing happen in NASCAR, at least for those that have been in trouble before? Don't hold your breath. When told of Fike's admission, NASCAR said that while they have "kept an eye on" recently toughened drug testing policies of the "Big Four" professional sports, they still think their system is working pretty well.

“No system is perfect,” said 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.”

Yep, so well we now find out people were racing on heroin!

This isn't rocket science here, folks! Every driver should have to pee in a cup at least once a year; twice would be even better. What's so hard about that?

So, my hat is off to Mr. Aaron Fike and to the other big names that have, once again brought this up. Anyone taking wagers that we see a change in policy in the future?

If it happens, we know who to thank.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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04/12/2008 09:07 AM

Remember a year or so ago when Czar Brian was witnessed driving erratically and hitting things? He got out of it. Remember when Michael Waltrip left the scene of an accident and hid out from police? He got out of it. You can’t police your organization effectively if you and your chosen ones are guilty of wrong doing.

04/12/2008 01:04 PM

It would not be difficult or expensive to test every driver at every race. nascar already has doctors,medical facilities and enough money to enforce such a policy. I can see making the enforcement of the crews the responsibility of the individual teams. There isn’t one driver out there that would refuse to submit a couple of hairs and pee in a cup each week to keep racing and making buckets of money…unless they had something to hide.

04/12/2008 02:26 PM

“No system is perfect,” said Jim Hunter.

Hi is right on that score. They have a perfect system, NONE.

The ARMY already has a system for them to use.

I was, along with many other duties, my companies Urinalysis Officer for several years.

Once a month I got to know some of my troops up close and personal.

It took all of an hour or so to get it done. Just a few guys picked at random by the computer from the roster.

By the end of the year everyone got hit once. Being that random keeps guys on their toes.

It is such a simple system, NA$CAR will probably never do it.

04/12/2008 05:24 PM

Am I off the wall or shouldn’t it just be common sense to drug test regularly? If you have nothing to hide then what’s the problem? Some of us making far less money in far less dangerous jobs are required to drug test at our jobs. Would anyone want to be out on a race track driving at those speeds with someone using drugs? It’s time for NASCAR to put it’s money where it’s mouth is. The drivers are not happy with the COT but NASCAR is telling them ist’s for their own good and it’s a much safer car. Now prove to the drivers you really want a safe environment and start drug testing!!! I’m not a Kevin Harvick fan but listen to him!!! He’s talking good common sense!!!

04/12/2008 08:20 PM

so when is fike lying?
why believe anything that loser says.i broke my neck in 3 places in an accident and i dont do smack. so i guess that punk should suck it up and just admit he“s a user loser

04/12/2008 08:48 PM

Don’t forget that drug tests aren’t always accurate. When a test can come up positive for heroin after one has eaten a poppyseed sandwich then something is terribly wrong. Also, are steroids going to be included in the list of banned drugs? What about alcohol? Also, some drugs disappear faster than others: Heroin,alcohol, and cocaine are gone within 12-24 hours while “pot” takes 30 days.
If I were to be on a track with a guy who had done any one of these in the past 24 hours I’d be mad, but the only one they would catch is the pot smoker. Not a fair deal.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
04/13/2008 12:33 AM

YouTube some Alice In Chains concerts from 1993. Layne Staley is under the infulence of heroin in a lot of them. You don’t need a drug test for that. You’d think SOMEBODY would have seen him exhibiting some signs of being under the influence of the most wicked drug on the planet.

04/13/2008 09:22 PM

Jeff “it simply amazes me that, even though I have been proved right, the likes of Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick HAVE NEVER BEEN CHECKED ONCE! That is simply ludicrous!”

Why? Under the policy in force the assumption is no one dropped a dime on any of those three drivers.

What is more troubling is Kahne’s implication he suspected Fike of being under the influence of something. Where are the so-called “reporters” tracking down that admission?

Did he tell NASCAR officials, if not why not? And if he didn’t, or anyone else that doesn’t in the future is just as culpable in the event something tragic happens on the track.

A note to Dennis: Not just the Army but the entire U.S. Military has a well enforced drug policy.

However a note of caution to those, including the USAC officials testing Fike at “every event,” that think the solution is testing at the track you, and USAC, are misguided, at best.

Dependent on the drug, and the type of testing used a result is just not possible to obtain the night on an event, the process takes too long and takes specialized equipment perform. The equipment is vital (as opposed to the crap they are selling over the counter to parents) to minimize the possibility of false positives.

04/14/2008 02:05 AM

Marc, you are so right. I am an RN who works in Labor and Delivery (birthin’ babies) and we test our patients when they come in to have babies in suspicious ways, have a past history of drug use, or have no prenatal care. This is the urine test, which is sent to the lab where specialized equipment searches for CATEGORIES of drugs. This test can take several hours to get the results of, depending on how busy the lab is…and for the person who said you can test positive for heroin if you eat a poppy seed sandwich (EW!!) this is a popular misconception,and it’s not entirely true. It would take a LOT of poppy seeds to create a false positive for OPIODS on a drug screen.

Blood tests are more accurate, but also take a long time, are more invasive, and like someone else indicated, most drugs, other than Marijuana, are out of your system quickly enough that by the time this test as a verification of a postive urine result were done, it could be out of your system, so you would test negative.

Also, what some in the general public do not realize is that some drugs don’t show up on traditional urine blood tests.

Until recent years, when it became a nation-wide problem, Crystal meth didn’t show up on standard urine drug tests.

I agree, it would be such a simple thing to institute a procedure like the military. However, I personally have known someone retired from the military who admitted when deployed overseas, he DID use drugs, so even THAT policy is no perfect. There ARE ways to get around urine drug tests, even random ones.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
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Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.