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Bob Pockrass
NASCAR Scene

First Place

New drug policy will include testing for steroids

NASCAR’s new drug policy will include testing for mind-altering drugs such as marijuana and cocaine and for steroids, which sanctioning body officials worry could also impact a driver’s judgment.
That decision had been made before Sept. 12, when Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday admitted using a prescription testosterone cream in 2005 and 2006. NASCAR deemed that he did so for health reasons ­ and that the steroid did not enhance his performance nor impair his judgment, according to NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter.
Hornaday said he was prescribed the testosterone cream because he had been losing weight, was experiencing shakes and could not figure out what was wrong. He eventually was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition, in March 2006.  He said the condition is under control.
“I have nothing to hide,” Hornaday, 50, said.
Testosterone use was not against NASCAR rules at the time Hornaday was taking it and steroid use will still be permitted if the driver has a prescription for a legitimate medical condition and the dose is appropriate.
Hornaday, who did not inform NASCAR when he was taking the testosterone, will not face discipline. Hunter said NASCAR would not use the admission as reasonable suspicion to test Hornaday, who passed a drug test for team owner Kevin Harvick this year.
Dr. David Black, the founder of Aegis Sciences Corp. and a NASCAR consultant, said inappropriate testosterone could affect a driver’s judgment.
“Testosterone may be used medically for a very legitimate medical need, so unfortunately the public discussion of the use of testosterone tends not to put it in its proper place,” Black said in a phone interview from his office in Nashville, Tenn. “If it’s used appropriately, there should not be any concern about effect on performance.
“However, if someone chooses to use testosterone for non-medical purposes and they use it in higher doses than what would be used for a medical need, then there is the risk that it could in fact affect behavior, and it could lead perhaps into increased aggression, although typically testosterone on its own would not do that, and typically it would be used in combination with other anabolic steroids that might then in combination lead to an increased risk of aggression.”
Increased aggression could lead to accidents, making it a safety issue.
“All aspects of the program are directed primarily on the issue of safety,” Black said. “Safety is first. Performance enhancement is certainly probably a very close second. Then we’re always concerned about non-medical or illegal use of any medication or illegal drug.”
Hornaday’s current medication includes a steroid, Harvick said.
“This whole situation is not about driving,” Harvick said. “This is about somebody’s personal health. Ron went to the extent of trying to make his life better and trying to make his health better.”
Hornaday said he didn’t mention he was taking the testosterone during his NASCAR preseason physical in 2005.
“If you checked me, my levels were so low, so it probably put me back to [normal] standards,” Hornaday said of the testosterone.
If a driver has a prescription for testosterone or other steroids then NASCAR will require that blood work be done to make sure that it is comfortable with the dosage.
Regardless of the medical need, if a medication has to be used that would have the potential of affecting a driver’s safety and their ability to drive, then safety would trump their medical need, Black said.
“That may be a very difficult decision, but that would have to be made for everyone present. Every case with regard to medical prescribing and medical need would have to be judged as we address each and every case.”
Hornaday won the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series championship, his third title in the series. He also has 45 career Cup starts.
“On a hot day when you’re pushed to your max physically, then you’re able to stay up in the seat, then potentially [taking steroids] could help,” said Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton. “In Ron’s situation, Ron looked horrible. He looked sick. There was something wrong with him. He was just trying to get healthy.”