Friday, 24 January 2020

NASCAR isn’t just suspending people for drinking coffee – Beyond the Flag

NASCAR isn’t just suspending people for drinking coffee – Beyond the Flag
28 Aug

While NASCAR has handed down two seemingly harsh suspensions in the last week and a half, they aren’t simply suspending people for drinking coffee.

Two indefinite suspensions have been handed down by NASCAR for violations of the sport’s Substance Abuse Policy over the last week and a half.

First, driver Bayley Currey was suspended indefinitely ahead of the Bristol Motor Speedway race weekend, preventing him from competing in both the Xfinity Series and Cup Series races at the track, and second, Cup Series crew chief Matt Borland was suspended Monday.

Both Currey and Borland were suspended for having banned substances in their system at the time when they were randomly drug tested. Both drivers had the same banned substance in their systems, and that was DMAA.

Currey stated that he used a pre-workout supplement called Juggernaut Irate, and this supplement contained DMAA. Borland, meanwhile, believes that he failed this drug test because of the diet coffee product that he had been drinking for the past several months.

Borland even confirmed that his doctor stated that this was the likely cause, as the product that he had been drinking contained DMHA, a derivative of DMAA. While Currey did not offer a similar confirmation, there has been nothing revealed since he was suspended indefinitely that would suggest that this was anything other than an honest mistake.

Both Currey and Borland must complete the Road to Recovery program before they are reinstated into their respective roles.

What, exactly, is the Road to Recovery program?

Per the NASCAR rule book:

“NASCAR members who violate this (Substance Abuse) Policy, are required to be tested before returning to NASCAR. In conjunction with the terms and conditions of reinstatement of a NASCAR license, the (Program Administrator) will provide for an evaluation with an appropriate substance abuse professional for the purpose of advising on the creation of a Road to Recovery Plan, which may include substance abuse counseling, treatment or rehabilitation. The PA (Program Administrator) will determine how many times the NASCAR member will be tested, for how long, and for what substances. The PA may also require that collections be under direct observation.”

Make no mistake about it. NASCAR is very strict about this policy, as they should be, and NASCAR drivers, team members, etc. need to be aware of what they are putting into their bodies so that they do not violate it.

DMAA is, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “an amphetamine derivative that has been marketed in sports performance and weight loss products, many of which are sold as dietary supplements. DMAA is not a dietary ingredient, and DMAA-containing products marketed as dietary supplements are illegal and their marketing violates the law“.

Based on this definition alone, it is clear that the NASCAR’s ban on the substance is more than just a silly NASCAR-enforced rule for the sole purpose of adhering to the rule book.

This isn’t a rule to penalize a “too many men over the wall” violation because a crew member’s hand touches the ground. This is a rule that has everything to do with preventing legal troubles involving drivers, team members and separate entities from arising over something that is 100% preventable.

As silly as it sounds, NASCAR had every right to suspend Currey, and they had every right to suspend Borland.

That in itself, however, does warrant another discussion. The idea of suspending somebody effectively for drinking coffee and particularly the idea that somebody who drinks coffee may need “substance abuse counseling, treatment or rehabilitation” is somewhat ridiculous and suggests that something needs to change and a line needs to be drawn.

That said, the problem with having this discussion is the fact that NASCAR is not in a position to draw that line, and for a number of reasons.

First of all, an “honest mistake” is as honest as the person making the mistake. I’m not saying that Currey and Borland are lying. In fact, given the context of both situations and how they have played out, it’s fairly clear that they are telling the truth.

And situations like these have arisen before. People have consumed products that contain a substance that they were previously unaware of, and they end up being drug tested and fail the drug test. It happens.

But if NASCAR lets them off the hook, then the next person who makes an “honest mistake” only uses those two words because they get caught. It’s a slippery slope. You can’t not penalize somebody for doing something illegal because “they didn’t know”, and Currey even echoed this sentiment when he made his statement about his suspension.

Additionally, there are other legal products out there that serve the exact same purpose. There are plenty of pre-workout supplements out there that don’t contain DMAA. Check the labels, perhaps even do a little research, and use accordingly, end of story. Don’t even consider tempting fate, especially considering the possible legal ramifications.

Next: Top 10 NASCAR drivers of all-time

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Yes, it seems stupid that NASCAR can suspend somebody and make them go through the entire Road to Recovery program effectively for drinking coffee. But given the context surrounding DMAA, this is the path that NASCAR needs to continue to take no matter what criticism comes their way.



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