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NASCAR's new substance-abuse policy long overdue

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - NASCAR unveiled its upgraded substance- abuse policy over the weekend, to include random testing beginning in 2009. All drivers, crew members and even race officials will be tested prior to the start of next season, and will be subject to random tests throughout the year.

NASCAR's current drug policy has been in place for over 20 years, but has been scrutinized by competitors such as Kevin Harvick in the past months, after former Craftsman Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to using heroin on race days. In July 2007, Fike was arrested and charged with heroin possession in the parking lot of an amusement park in Ohio.

Ron Hornaday, Jr. told ESPN the Magazine last week he used prescribed testosterone cream in 2004 and 2005 to treat a serious medical condition. NASCAR officials met with Hornaday at New Hampshire and cleared the defending Truck Series champion of any wrongdoing.

NASCAR will continue its current policy of testing any competitor who is of "reasonable suspicion." Penalties, which include immediate suspension from competition, will remain the same. While it is possible that a competitor could receive a lifetime ban for just one violation, a third violation will automatically result in a lifetime ban.

Ron Hornaday, Jr. told ESPN the Magazine he used prescribed testosterone cream in 2004.
NASCAR covered all of its principles in the new substance-abuse policy, with the exception of outlining what is illegal. The sanctioning body provided no list of which drugs are banned.

"We think we have the broadest policy in all of sports," Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's vice president of racing operations, said during a press conference Saturday at the Dover International Speedway. "The reason we don't have a list is we believe that a list is restrictive. If you've seen a lot of other leagues, the policy is constantly changing. We know that there's new drugs out there every day. By having a broad policy that doesn't list anything, we feel like we can test for any substance that may be abused, no different than our policy is today."

Whereas most major league sports in the United States have a detailed list of banned substances on their drug testing policies, NASCAR believes such a list is unnecessary.

"Any substance abuse test that we'll do, it will be broad, sweeping and comprehensive," O'Donnell said. "Normally the categories you can look at are any narcotic that can be abused, beta blockers and steroids. Those are kind of the three key areas that we'll look at. But beyond that, we've got the capability to test for any substance."

NASCAR needed to amend its substance-abuse policy to ensure the safety of the sport. Let's just hope not having a thorough list of banned substances won't create an issue.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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