Tuesday, April 8, 2008

High on the high banks

Eye-opening story in ESPN The Magazine about substance abuse in NASCAR and the pathetic tale of Aaron Fike, a truck series driver who raced while high on heroin. This appears to be a disturbing little secret that NASCAR wants to brush under the rug, just like the whispers eight years ago that the safety standards were subpar.

Fike, who was caught by Ohio authorities shooting up heroin with his girlfriend in the backseat of their car, admitted for the first time that he did drugs daily, including before some races. Just a week before his arrest last July, he finished fifth in a truck race at Memphis.

The initial reaction is disbelief and outrage. I am angry at Fike for being so stupid and selfish to put other drivers at risk. But it’s also incumbent upon NASCAR to do regular testing of its drivers. They're currently doing just "target testing" on drivers that are suspected of using drugs, according to the ESPN story.

Baseball reluctantly began testing for performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, but there is a stark difference between a roid-filled batter at the plate and a coked-up race driver on the track. I do not condone the use of steroids or HGH in baseball, but the person who uses is hurting only his own body. On the track, however, the consequences could be deadly.

It’s surprising to learn NASCAR has not implemented regular drug testing already. After Fike’s suspension last year and Shane Hmiel’s ban from racing in 2005, it is time for the series to act now. I don’t suggest weekly testing every time the cars hit the track, but each driver should submit to random testing several times a year. And unlike baseball and football, which slap offenders with minor suspensions, anyone caught using illegal drugs in NASCAR should be banished. Once an appeal is exhausted, they should never be allowed to set foot on a track again.

The stakes are too great for a race car driver to be high at nearly 200 mph.

1 comment:

Amanda Gillooly said...

I agree wholeheartedly, people shouldn't drive high no matter how fast. Just my humble opinion. And you would think it would be mandatory to be tested considering that, unlike how baseball players juicing up doesn't endanger their teammates, a heroin addict driving at 200 mph could certainly do come damage