Saturday, May 09, 2009

Accidental Substance Abuse policy violations can't be excused

After it was announced, Saturday, that Jeremy Mayfield--the owner and driver for the #41 Sprint Cup team--would be suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy, , Mayfield issued a statement that implied the violation may have been accidental:

“As both a team owner and a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I have immense respect for the enforcement policies NASCAR has in place. In my case, I believe that the combination of a prescribed medicine and an over the counter medicine reacted together and resulted in a positive drug test. My Doctor and I are working with both Dr. Black and NASCAR to resolve this matter."(AP newswire via Jayski's)

Although an accidental abuse of a substance can not be excused by NASCAR in dealing with its Substance Abuse policy, it goes to show how careful one must be when working in an environment that requires the person to avoid substances which could affect his or her ability to perform the duties required. A NASCAR driver or crew member under the influence of alcohol or other debilitating substance presents a danger to all other participants on the track. Furthermore, we expect that most experienced drivers, including Jeremy Mayfield, would not knowingly consume a substance that would impair their ability or reflexes on the track. There have been exceptions, such as Shane Hmiel, Taylor Walker, Aaron Fyke, and the late Kevin Grubb, and they are what brought us to the current NASCAR policy. I would not put Mayfield in that category, though we can't be certain that he isn't in the same category until we see what the conditions are for his reinstatement, if that information is released publicly.

Mayfield's error was allegedly in performing actions that many of us take as every day behavior.

If Jeff Gordon were taking medication for his back pain, would we expect him to race? If Matt Kenseth were to take an over the counter medication containing ephedrine, should he be allowed to race? What if Dale Earnhardt, Jr tested positive for marijuana, would NASCAR look the other way? Absolutely not, and if any if those drivers tested positive for any banned substances, they would certainly be suspended as well--no matter what their monetary value to NASCAR--wouldn't they?

Note that Mayfield did not deny use of a banned substance, nor did he criticize NASCAR's policy. He knows that NASCAR must stand by its policy, without prejudice or bias, and has agreed with the action taken against him. We do not know what the substance for which he tested positive is, nor do we know what his prescription contained, or how it may have reacted with an over the counter product, but we do know that there are many over the counter medications and other products that contain substances listed in the following overview of NASCAR's banned substances:

- Seven different amphetamines, including methamphetamine and PMA, a synthetic psychostimulant and hallucinogen.
- Three drugs classified under
- 13 different
narcotics, including codeine and morphine.
- Ten different benzodiazepines and barbituates.
- Marijuana, cocaine, zolpidem,
nitrites, chromates and drugs that can increase specific gravity. (from the Jayski's page cited above)

Ephedrine is found in many over-the-counter cold and flu medications. Ephedrine is also an ingredient in some sports or energy drinks.

Narcotics can be found in many prescription drugs used to treat pain, pneunoma or severe flu symptoms. It should also be noted, as researched by, that certain bakery goods can also result in positive results for opiates. 

"Opiates (morphine and codeine) can be detected in urine for at least 48 hours after one eats food containing poppy seeds. As little as a single bagel covered with poppy seeds could produce a false positive for these drugs."

Be careful, Tony Stewart.

Nitrites, particularly sodium nitrite, can be found in Slim Jims, processed beef jerky, smoked meat products, and lunchmeats when used as a preservative and food coloring. In other words, Elliott Sadler could get banned from racing because of his love for bologna burgers. It's okay for Jeff Hammond to eat a bunch of Martinsville hot dogs, but we have noted that the drivers wisely avoid them.

As easy as it seems to accidentally commit a violation, the drug policy requires that a driver or crew member should not lead a life that contains elements that most of us take for granted. Jimmie Johnson should get banned for eating a Johnsonville Brat as easily as Mayfield could for taking asthma medication and smoking a cigarette afterward.

No comments: