Drug Users In NASCAR
Compared to other professional sports, NASCAR has not dealt with the problem of drugs quite as often. It was in 1988 that Tim Richmond, a 13-time race winner, who made the news for his suspension due to his failure to pass a sanctioned drug test. Richmond started driving for Hendrick Motorsports and began building an impressive record on the circuit, and he was regularly listed on the nascar schedule. Richmond, however, denied the drug abuse, and it was later stated that medications to suppress cold symptoms triggered the positive result. Regardless, NASCAR officials no longer wanted Richmond in the sport. He was losing weight due to an illness, but unbeknownst to NASCAR, Richmond was dying of AIDS. NASCAR remained convinced that Richmond’s weight loss and other odd symptoms were caused by using drugs, and rumors supported this belief.
In 1989, he passed away due to complications from AIDS.
Since Tim Richmond’s unceremonious removal from the sport two decades ago, very few drivers have faced the wrath of NASCAR because of drugs. Drivers Shane Hmiel, Tyler Walker, Kevin Grubb, and Aaron Fike have been suspended by NASCAR in the recent past. Grubb and Hmiel received lifetime bans after failing drug tests following reinstatements from a previous suspension due to drugs.
Hmiel is the son of Steve Hmiel, a long-time mechanic who has worked for companies such as Roush Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Chip Ganassi Racing in recent years|Hmiel is the son of veteran mechanic, Steve Hmiel, who has had an illustrious career working for names like Dale Earnhardt Inc, Rousch Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing. Hmiel was a racer with serious talent and many described him as one of the more talented rookie drivers of the last decade, but his drug problems were the undoing of his promising future in racing.
Grubb was another hot young driver back in the late 1990s. Before he was suspend for failing a test in 2003, Grubb was making a small mark in the Busch Series, which is now the Nationwide Series. He was reinstated in 2006, and suspended again in 2007. By May of 2009, Grubb was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Tyler Walker, good friend to Sprint Cup Series star Kasey Kahne, failed a drug test and was suspended in 2006. Tyler has yet to file for NASCAR reinstatement.
Driver Aaron Fike’s made the list of trouble drivers when he was arrested for heroin possession at a theme park and subsequently suspended by NASCAR officials. In a later interview with ESPN ‘The Magazine’, Fike admitted to using heroin on race day. Needless to say, the Fike interview was a shocking blow to NASCAR.
Prior to the 2009 season, NASCAR required tests only for those drivers under reasonable suspicion for abuse. Today, NASCAR randomly tests all drivers and crewmembers throughout the season through Aegis Science Corp. Labs with Dr. David Black overseeing the process.
Several crewmembers were recently suspended for testing positive for illegal substances.
As recently as May 9, 2009, driver Jeremy Mayfield, another popular driver like Tim Richmond, was place on indefinite suspension for failing his drug screening. According to Mayfield, the test was positive because of his use of the allergy medication, Claritin-D and another prescription drug. However, NASCAR and Dr. Black have publicly ruled out Mayfield’s claim.
Mayfield is sticking by his innocence, and has hired a lawyer, Bill Diehl. A lawsuit against NASCAR could be on the horizon.
NASCAR has not publicly disclosed the name of the drug that is in question, and even Mayfield has expressed ignorance regarding the drug. He and his lawyer received reports earlier in the week.
The bottom line is that this is a he-said they-said situation that will likely be resolved outside of court. This latest news coverage has brought negative attention to the sport of NASCAR. The bad press hasn’t made a serious impact on the nascar schedule. The coverage of Mayfield’s legal protests have sidetracked many notable events coming out of NASCAR that could mean some good press for a change. Because drug issues are rare in NASCAR, it is a bigger deal than it would be if it were and NFL, MLB, NHL, or NBA player.
The random drug screening process is an improvement from the screening only on reasonable suspicion approach. However, NASCAR does not provide a list of banned drugs, which is one major flaw in this procedure. It seems that NASCAR wants to decide if a substance should be banned. A list of banned substances would allow the drivers and crewmembers more understanding on what they can or cannot do.
It should be crystal clear now that drugs are not allowed in NASCAR.