The Frontstretch: Despite Claims and Regardless of Guilt, NASCAR’s Drug Policy Fails by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday June 11, 2009

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Despite Claims and Regardless of Guilt, NASCAR’s Drug Policy Fails

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday June 11, 2009


Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this article, I want to apologize to my readers for some headaches that it may induce. You see, I am going to be including quotes from NASCAR CEO Brian France. In case you have not experienced these before, I would advise you read the following far away from any loaded firearms, sharp objects, or anything else within reach that may be used to inflict serious bodily harm upon yourself. You will see what I mean in a moment.

As we all know, one of the major NASCAR news items these past few weeks has been the suspension of Jeremy Mayfield for “serious violations” of NASCAR’s drug policy. Well, this article is not about whether Mayfield is in fact guilty or innocent — nor is it about the merits of Jeremy’s lawsuit against NASCAR. It’s not even about the merits of NASCAR’s countersuit of Mayfield.

No, this article is about where the policy itself falls apart from square one.

On the one side, you have a professional marketing man who has procured billions of dollars in profit for his family’s business… a business which he has now inherited control over and one to which — depending on his mood — he likes to assert is either a major sport or a “show” / entertainment.

That man, of course, is Brian France.

On the other side of this argument, though, is one Dr. Gary Wadler. Dr. Wadler currently serves as the Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, as well as an ex-officio member of WADA’s Health, Medicine, and Research Committee. Additionally, he has served as a Medical Advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Trustee of the Board of the American College of Sports Medicine, and of the Women’s Sports Foundation. For his groundbreaking work in the field of drug abuse in sports, Dr Wadler received the International Olympic Committee’s President’s Prize in 1993. In 2007, he was selected by the Institute for International Sport as “One of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America” and serves as Chairman of the Communications and Information Committee of the American College of Sports Medicine.

NASCAR’s drug policy appears to be changed on the whim of CEO Brian France.

In addition to all that fancy sports stuff, Wadler is Chairman of the American Ballet Theatre’s Medical Advisory Board, where he oversees the development of medical guidelines for the healthy and sound training of dancers in the United States — so that should cover any questions about his qualifications in the “show” or entertainment department!

At the heart of the matter here is the toughness and effectiveness of NASCAR’s drug policy — a policy which is strictly made up and changed at the whim of, when it comes down to it, one man…France. Most other professional sports, including Formula One racing, adhere to the guidelines set forth by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) instead.

During a recent “State of the Sport” press conference, it was expressed to France that many, if not all of the competitors in NASCAR, were nervous and even confused about the clarity of the current drug policy.

“Yeah, let me take that head on because, number one, we have had in terms of punishment, if you should test positively for a banned substance, depending on what it is, we’ve always had the toughest enforcement in sports. We’re testing more often as a result of the industry, frankly, wanting us to. So we made an already tough policy much more difficult,” said France.

Yet, despite being such a “tough” policy, one of the major problems drivers were having was the lack of a certain “list” of banned substances; or, if there is a list, just what exactly was on it.

“Actually, we do have a list,” France corrected the assembled media that day. “It’s a broad list. The drivers, it depends on which one, are happy to look at that list. We show it to them. We certainly will consider discussing that list with the media, as well. What we’re talking about now is the many different substances that are tested. There are many. What is important to note about our list which we have, or any other list, we don’t want to make it selective either. It’s not exclusive to that list. There are things in the scientific world that are changing all the time. Our laboratory would have a list and would have an expanding list, and it wouldn’t be subject to just that list.”

Whoa! Back up the cart a minute! It depends on which driver you are if NASCAR decides to let you see the list or not? Can Jeff Gordon see the list but, say, Mayfield would be denied? And what about the ambiguity of “we don’t want to make it selective either. It’s not exclusive to that list. There are things in the scientific world that are changing all the time. Our laboratory would have a list and would have an expanding list, and it wouldn’t be subject to just that list?” That leaves the door pretty wide open. In short, Brian is saying that NASCAR can pretty much determine at any time what is on “this week’s” list! Ah yes, “the list,” firmly written in pencil!

However, our world renowned sports doctor, Dr. Wadler is a little more critical and to the point.

“My understanding is that there is no published list of specific substances,” he said of NASCAR’s drug policy. “And I don’t know how a driver would be allowed to take this, that, or the other thing, be it Adderall or whatever. It’s a very unusual program, in contrast to Formula One, which is under the rubric of the World Anti-Doping Code and follows the list of the WADA.”

“I happen to chair the committee that draws up that list, so I know the subject well, and it’s a very detailed process that we go through. Apparently, it is all in the hands of one person in NASCAR.”

When asked how well he thought NASCAR’s policy worked, Dr. Wadler’s conclusions were quite specific.

“I have been known to be critical of our professional sports in the United States and this is way, way behind those,” he continued. “To me, this is woefully lacking in all the details which are necessary to have a meaningful policy. At the heart of it, the root of all of it is what drugs are banned. If you can’t answer that question, it is a non-starter.”

OK, so whom do you think is more qualified when it comes to knowing what they are talking about concerning drug policy — the marketing man who has made billions from this sport, or the chair of the committee list maker of prohibited drugs as set forth by the WADA?

NASCAR and Brian France like to talk about the global acceptance of stock car racing, and we now have drivers from other forms of motorsports giving it a try all the time. So, isn’t it about time Brian France gave up the power trip and perhaps sought help in legitimizing his own program?

Stay off the wall (and Brian’s many, and all-inclusive lists, whatever they may be this week!),

Jeff Meyer

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06/11/2009 02:00 AM

Very informative and articulate column Jeff.


MJR in Springfield VA
06/11/2009 06:45 AM

Does Brian France have even an inkling of how the English language works… in that he must connect his thoughts together and use words to convey said thoughts? And, here’s the kicker race fans, that they should make sense when read… or quoted?

06/11/2009 07:44 AM

After reading what Brian France said, I am now totally confused. The muddy water just got muddier, if there is such a word. Other organizations seem to be able to get it right, come on Nascar, giving that big fine to Long’s team and now this deal with Mayfield. Not having a clear cut drug program can ruin someones career.

06/11/2009 07:52 AM

Nice article, very informative, (as if we really needed to “BE MORE INFORMED” about how King Brian rules his domain!)

We all know how that circus conducts itself!

My only quandary about this whole thing, is the question as to why people keep spending money to follow the NA$CRAP CIRCUS & the IDIOTS that run same!

Oh, you didn’t say whether King Brian was sober or drunk at that news conference, and that my friends is a very logical question!

Robert Eastman
06/11/2009 09:12 AM

Obviously, the one “drug(ged)” that should be banned from NASCAR is Brian France himself!

Mike in Floyd Va
06/11/2009 09:59 AM

Based on the “symptoms” of drug abuse spelled out in NASCAR’s drug policy, Brian’s speaking the way he does meets the criteria set down by NASCAR for drug testing.

bobby dee
06/11/2009 10:38 AM

You forget to mention that NASCAR tells you to list ALL drugs & medications at the time of the blood draw. If the NASCAR member fails to mention one,(meth) BINGO. A failed drug test. I like the policy.

amy anderson
06/11/2009 11:00 AM

What saddens me is that the drivers seem to have no trouble with the daddy-child relationship that France has instituted. How insulting it is to have to call the doc in charge of the ‘list’ in order to see if what the doctor prescribed is on it, and if the driver has approval to take it. And if not, what effect that might have on the driver’s ability to get better. The whole system stinks to high heaven. But I suppose that if one makes enough money, one can endure any insult-or so it appears.

06/11/2009 11:45 AM

It is evident that France Jr(MORON) is a grandson or uses the same PR rep as former president George W Bush…LOL

Darcie Edwards
06/11/2009 12:01 PM

Is Brian France drug tested? If not, then why? From the way he speaks, and is flawed comments pertaining to this supposed drug policy, he sounds like someone who’s hooked on crystal meth. But as usual, this is the same old same old from Nascar—-an organization who makes up their rules as they go along.

Brian France Sucks
06/11/2009 01:19 PM

I bet they keep the “list” wherever they keep the rule book. As usual, France sounds like an idiot.

06/11/2009 02:02 PM

Couldn’t agree with you more Amy…the only thing sadder than the incompetency running NASCAR is how the majority of the racers in the field don’t seem to care.

Excellent article Jeff, learned a lot reading this one. See, I do read your stuff.

06/11/2009 02:05 PM

bobby dee,
I work in an industry that requires frequent drug testing. It’s been years since I have had to list medications I am taking. I questioned the practice awhile back and was told that the tests had evolved to the point that they could rule out legal drugs quite easily.
My bullcrap alarm went off and now insist on listing my allergy med on the form.

Richard in N.C.
06/11/2009 07:31 PM

As with many articles on the topic, there are a few holes.

First and foremost apparently Dr. Wadler was so concerned about being accurate that his comments are based on what “My understanding is….” In other words, apparently he did not bother to read the policy before commenting.

If NASCAR’s drug testing program is so faulty, where is the comparison to the program of the IRL, F1, NHRA, NBA, or NFL to demonstrate its faults?

Just because Brian France has trouble explaining it does not mean the NASCAR program is faulty. Since no one in the media seems to want to compare NASCAR’s program to that of any other major racing series or sport I have to assume that NASCAR’s program must stack up pretty well.

From my reading of NASCAR’s drug testing program and the explanantions I have heard of how it functions it makes a lot more sense than handing a driver or tire carrier WADA’s 9 page list of chemical substances and telling him or her to not take any of these. What makes more sense – (1) check every medication you take against a 9 page list of chemical substances or (2) before you take a medication call Aegis and let them tell you whether the substance is banned or not?

Do you really think NASCAR could convince Aegis to risk their business and reputation on an arbitrary drug testing program? NASCAR’s program does contain a definition of prohibited substances – and it is not whatever Brian France decides. NASCAR’s response to Mayfield’s suit states that NASCAR provided all teams with at least 1 memo, maybe 2, before the season began of specific substances that all covered team members had to be tested for before the season began.

If NASCAR’s program is so clearly faulty, where was the media outcry last year when the program was announced?

06/12/2009 12:10 AM

Richard in N.C., Did ya not just read this article by someone in the Press? They did just compare it to F1 racing… and stated that F1 uses WADA.

Also, your bagging on the Doctor for him saying “My understanding is…” makes you believe he didn’t read the policy? Gee, do you completely understand every policy you have ever read. He was being very politically savvy by wording his answer that way, and by no means does his response imply that he didn’t read it.

You’re seeing holes where there are none, and are putting holes where ya like. NASCAR’s ongoing policy is they will do whatever the hell they like… and continue to live up to that with this drug policy issue.

Richard in N.C.
06/12/2009 07:30 PM

Fred, I watched Dr. Wadler make his comments on NASCAR Now and I knew immediately that he had not read the NASCAR policy and was speaking from what he had read about or been told about the NASCAR policy.

I mean a thorough comparison of NASCAR’s policy to that of F1 – how often do they test, who does the test, who do they test, etc.

I’ll need to go look again, but I do not remember the WADA list of banned substances including any performance inhibiting substances, which would make little difference in track and field, but makes a big difference in auto racing.

I am still convinced that many in the media are more interested in the story (bashing NASCAR) than the facts.

Richard in N.C.
06/13/2009 06:26 PM

Coincidentally I find that 2 of the people involved in running the sports testing for Aegis Sciences, the lab that handles the drug testing program for NASCAR, used to work for WADA.


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