NASCAR drug policy questioned

Published 1:48 am Friday, July 10, 2009

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Although NASCAR contends it has the best anti-doping procedures in sports, some experts see flaws in the policy and question whether drivers are getting a fair shake in the lab or a safe ride on the track.

The debate between outfits that run Olympic-style testing programs and leagues that enforce their own — NASCAR, baseball and the NFL among them — has been going on for a while, but it’s taking on new relevance in the wake of Jeremy Mayfield’s case against NASCAR.

NASCAR suspended the 40-year-old driver May 9, eight days after failing a random drug test. NASCAR has said Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamine, but he has denied ever using the illegal drug.

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Last week, a federal judge issued an injunction and overturned the drug suspension to let Mayfield to compete. NASCAR is appealing the judge’s ruling, saying that allowing ‘‘a proven methamphetamine user’’ back on the track could lead to fatal consequences for other competitors and fans.

The Mayfield case ‘‘will be used as Exhibit 1 of what can go horribly wrong when you don’t have an effective policy in place,’’ said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees America’s Olympic athletes.

‘‘The truly clean drivers, frankly, should be outraged,’’ Tygart said.