Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday May 8, 2008
A few weeks ago, I penned a column that basically said Aaron Fike’s admission of doing heroin on race days was tantamount to holding a Royal Flush when it came to forcing NASCAR’s hand on reexamining its drug testing policy. Backing Fike’s play was Tony Stewart and former Fike boss, Kevin Harvick, both of which said that they have never been tested for drugs since they began their NASCAR careers.
Well, this week the spot responded in their typical fashion, stating that while they do keep an eye on other professional sports’ drug testing policies, by and large, their system gave them more power and had certainly been serving them quite well, thank you very much.
“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.”
Just exactly “what our policy has allowed us to do” turned to mean having drivers on the race track under the influence of drugs. Fike knew that there were no “discussions from time to time;” for if there had been, there would have been a NASCAR PR about it. I mean, Brian France can’t have a case of flatulence without a press release stating that NASCAR is experimenting with alternative fuels or some such drivel. It was Fike’s mission to change all that and, in the process, perhaps have the best shot at getting his career back on track. His gamble firmly brought the betting around to the Daytona brass and, after careful consideration, they have finally made their play.
According to Hunter, France has now appointed a group of company officials to an interim committee that is supposed to think about the drug policy, and then come back “within six weeks or so” and tell Brian what HE thinks about all this. In reality, this probably means that Brian France is going on vacation, and when the rest of the staff asked him what they were supposed to do without his leadership, he came up with this brilliant plan for a committee. Is everybody happy? OK, that’s it; I’m outta here!
The committee studying the drug policy is supposedly made up of people that “have been around a long time and know the sport” and will decide, among other things, if one of their doctor friends will get a new job on the NASCAR payroll as a “staff substance abuse expert” and if random drug testing should be implemented.
After much thought, I really still don’t know how to take this latest announcement. I mean, I really want to think that NASCAR is actually stepping up to the plate and is going to do the right thing, even if they were forced to do it. I want to think that way because overall, I personally, have snapped out of the bad mood that I have been in for the last couple of years, and I honestly do get tired of ragging on NASCAR brass all the time.
But then I remember who I am dealing with. (I never said it wasn’t fun ragging on them!) Do you really need to hire a “staff substance abuse expert?” And is it really that hard to figure out, or that complex of an issue to not know if random drug testing is a good idea? You need a committee for that? Apparently, Brian France does.
I sincerely hope that NASCAR isn’t bluffing and is willing to go “all in” and do the right and obvious thing here — implement some simple changes, such as random drug testing. That is a no brainer. They do not, however, need to hire a staff substance abuse expert; but if they do, I may just apply. After all, in my younger years… well. let’s just say I’m as qualified as any schmuck they will hire.
Stay off the wall (and off the substances, too!)
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