Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nascar's drug testing policy

NASCAR seems to have this unique drug testing policy.  They randomly test drivers for illegal substances.  If some deadly narcotic like marijuana shows up in their system, they can temporarily suspend the driver.  The driver can then demand a retest.  If he fails the second test, he/she is indefinitely suspended until the "situation" is rectified.  Usually the penalties involve levying fines, suspension, counseling, treatment programs and stricter monitoring for potential future infractions.

What fascinates me is that NASCAR has made it official policy to never specify the substance that one tests positive for.  NASCAR has differentiated itself from all other sports.  They get to play the role of judge, jury AND executioner.  Other leagues at least make the relevant information publicly available.  You know exactly who got suspended for cocaine, ecstasy or whatever.  Justice isn't carried out under a veil of secrecy behind closed doors.

Regarding the recent suspension of driver AJ Allmendinger, President Mike Helton issued the following statements...

"A lot of it has to do with complexities of the whole process itself and realizing that you're dealing with personnel and personalities," Helton told a group of reporters. "We've chosen so far, anyway, to not disclose that.

But as practice began for this weekend's Nationwide race in Indy, Allmendinger's test results and NASCAR's non-disclosure policy continued to be a major issue.
Helton didn't budge.
"We've just taken the position that we're not going to disclose," he said.
Helton added that the lack of positive drug-test results through the years, despite thousands of tests, indicated NASCAR's drug-testing policy did work.
"We take our responsibility very seriously," he said. "The fact it is (rare) is a very good thing for the sport."

Okay, now I understand.  So NASCAR has determined their non-disclosure policy based on the "complexities of the whole process" and the fact that they're dealing with "personnel and personalities."  WHAT KIND OF FUCKING NONSENSE IS THIS ???

Here is the plain, real truth.  NASCAR's entire identity is wrapped around and intrinsically linked to hundreds of corporations.  These companies are the lifeblood of the sport.  Without their investments and sponsorship of racing teams, NASCAR would cease to exist.  Helton is terrified of the prospect of tarnishing the good names of companies like Home Depot, Anheuser Busch, Motorola, etc.

Think about it...

"There goes that coked up guy in the Lowe's car.  Man, he's zoomin!"
"No wonder the driver for the McDonald's car got in a wreck.  He was trippin' on mushrooms."

By the way, it was leaked that Allmendinger tested positive for "methamphetamines."  This doesn't necessarily mean "street meth."  It could be MDMA, cocaine, ketamine.  It might even just be a higher concentration of pseudoedphedrine (the stuff they sell at the Flying J Truckstop outside Columbus).  Incidentally, you gotta love the name "Flying J."  Did you know the owner of the Flying J truckstops has a 16% stake in my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers?  Jim Haslam III just announced that he'll be selling his entire stake and is purchasing the Cleveland Browns from Al Lerner.  Talk about a demotion.  I think they should drug test Haslam.  He must be ingesting drugs that have horrific side-effects.  Lunacy, insanity, idiocy, delirium.   Then again, considering it's the Browns...  Hell, it might be a good fit.

Looks like a nice guy, but appearances can be deceiving.  Good luck with training camp in Diarrhea, er uhh... Berea, Ohio.  Wouldn't it be insane if their new quarterback Brandon Weeden tested positive for marijuana?  That'd be about as ironic as Congressman Anthony Weiner taking those pictures of his dick.

I heard he's considering a run for mayor of NYC.  I say fuck it.  He'd get my vote.

My point was this - Allmendinger might not even be allowed access to the specific information to help vindicate him.  And Mike Helton's not doing much in the way of helping out his employees.  And his workers aren't flipping burgers.  They literally risk their lives.  You ever drive 220 mph pushing on someone's bumper at Talledega?  Helton's starting to sound a little like the indomitable Mr. Mackey.  "You tested positive for drugs.  Drugs are bad, m-kay." 

This could very well be the death knell for NASCAR.  The question of course... what would be the simplest, most effective way to expose this insular policy?   I believe the best method would be to draw on the analogy?

Propose the following question... As it relates to drug testing, why does NASCAR get to operate by a different set of rules and standards compared to other sports like Major League Baseball, the National Football League or the National Basketball Association?  As you might suspect, I'm in the process of coming up with a plan to expose this double standard.

Seems to me like Nascar's President Mike "Helter Skelter" Helton is pretty much a coward.  I actually sent this man a letter (on an entirely different subject) back on May 1, 2012.  Of course, he didn't respond.  Although I don't personally know the guy, I will give him credit for remaining consistent.

May 1, 2012

Mike Helton, President
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL  32114

Re: The prospect of an artificially generated stampede in auto racing facilities

President Helton:

In 1913, 73 people were crushed to death in the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan.  This event is generally regarded as the basis for placing reasonable limitations on the First Amendment.  Most refer to it as "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater."  Roughly a century later, allow me to pose a similar question.  Is it conceivable to text "fire" at a crowded racing venue?  If a significant number of individuals received a text message conveying IMMINENT DANGER and/or the NEED TO IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE, the consequences could be catastrophic.  It would likely result in an artificially generated stampede.

Following the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, companies offering mass text alerts became more commonplace.  Many of these companies offer SMS (short message service) systems to anyone willing to pay for them.  It's just a matter of time before someone with a pernicious agenda opts to utilize this platform.  Furthermore, a perpetrator would probably seek maximum impact as it would likely be a one-time occurrence.  

While security and safety measures have been greatly enhanced in the last decade, there has never been a credible plan to safely evacuate an auto racing facility in the event of a sudden panic.  Why?  Because it's simply not logistically feasible.  We have already witnessed the evolution of flash mobs and the recent spread of dangerous viral text hoaxes.  The prospect of hacking and manipulating a text alert system or cellular service provider represents the gravest concern.  But it's simply the mere existence and availability of lengthy lists of cell phone numbers corresponding to individuals in a confined location.  This, combined with the established level of trust placed in emergency SMS communication, represents the underlying problem.  

While I doubt that I am the first person to conceive of this potential threat, I do suspect this is the first time you've heard about an artificially generated stampede.  Other than virally spread text hoaxes, I've seen nothing about deliberately transmitting false texts in an attempt to create a sudden, mass panic.  There seems to be no discussion of this asymmetric security issue in the public domain.  And if you connect the dots between large crowds and the potential misuse of SMS technology, I think you'll agree that my concerns are justified.  Please consider the following:

    •     The potential for hacking or intentional misuse of any relevant text notification system.  Due to their wider accessibility, socially driven media platforms such as Twitter represent another area of concern.   
    •      The acquisition of cloned cell phone lists linked to racing fans and speedway employees.  A spoofed (disguised) message could easily be configured to appear as though it was sent from an opt-in notification system.

    •      A message originating from a wireless carrier.  You may recall the December 12, 2011 "Civil Emergency: Take Shelter Now" alert sent to Verizon customers in central New Jersey.  Termed a "malicious hoax" by Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, the event remains unexplained.  Although an apology was issued, there has been no admission of negligence or responsibility.

Being a whistle blower for a hypothetical national security threat is not something I relish, but I cannot in good conscience remain silent.  So in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security's "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, I have made a moral determination to send you this letter.  I would encourage you to research this issue and take preventative action.  And while this problem is well beyond my area of expertise, I do have some suggestions.

    •    Acknowledge and prepare for an unpleasant reality.  In the event of an artificially generated stampede, any emergency evacuation protocol would most certainly be rendered useless.

    •    Understand that your incident commander may not have ultimate control over the content, timing and delivery of an evacuation order.  This represents a profoundly changed dynamic in facility security.

    •    Assess the security of any cell phone lists associated with fans and speedway employees.        
    •    Be cognizant of the timing and context of official social media updates.

    •     Employ a looped message via the public address system warning fans of the possibility of an artificially generated stampede.          
    •     Include an assumption of risk disclaimer on the ticket stub similar to a foul ball or broken bat warning: Cellular communication devices can be used to create artificially generated stampedes.  If you receive a message demanding an immediate evacuation, wait for official confirmation from the public address system.

    •     Conduct general awareness campaigns as a matter of policy.  A simple slogan such as "Think before you run" could prove very effective in thwarting a text-induced stampede.     

An event of this nature would likely not be a hoax or accident.  It would be executed with malicious intent.  Crowded auto racing facilities provide one of the most easily recognizable targets.  As the leaders of the organizations that put people into these crowded and therefore potentially dangerous environments, you have a moral obligation to warn people about the dangers of panic-laden text messages.  We need to raise awareness before a catastrophe transpires.  There will be no dress rehearsal.

I believe that the federal government will not address this issue until after a disaster has occurred.  Therefore, I would implore you to work with each other and exercise your considerable influence with state and local governments.  It is imperative to devise a time-sensitive game plan.  I am willing to meet with you personally to review this matter.  Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy


Eric Saferstein
contact information omitted

cc:  Brian Z. France, Chairman/CEO, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
    Gerry Cavis, Director of Security, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
    Randy Bernard, CEO, Indy Racing League, Inc.
    Brian Barnhart, President, Indy Racing League, Inc.
    Charles Burns, Director of Security, Indy Racing League, Inc.

Letters with similar content have been sent to the following individuals.
    Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security
    Chairman Julius Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission
    Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education       
    NCAA Division I university presidents and chancellors
    Commissioner Roger Goodell, National Football League
    National Football League ownership

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