DOVER, Del. - NASCAR joined the ranks of other professional sports Saturday, announcing it would adopt a random drug-testing policy for its drivers, over-the-wall pit crew members and NASCAR officials beginning next season.
NASCAR's current policy permits testing when officials have a "reasonable suspicion" someone is using a banned substance.
"We have made a very good policy even better with the addition of random tests," said Brian France, teh NASCAR chairman. "NASCAR's policy has given us the ability to test anyone, anywhere, at any time.
"Random tests now provide us and the industry with additional information."
The new policy mandates that all drivers in NASCAR's three national series - Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks - be tested during 2009 preseason work at Daytona International Speedway by officials with the AEGIS Sciences Corp., a certified sports and forensic testing laboratory.
Team owners will be required to verify that all licensed crew members have been tested by a certified lab prior to the start of the season. NASCAR will test its officials prior to the start of the 2009 season.
NASCAR's existing policy of testing when reasonable suspicion exists someone is abusing a substance will remain in effect.
"We have talked to a lot of industry experts. It has always been incumbent upon NASCAR to put safety first and the nature of this program is safety first," said Steve O'Donnell, the company's vice president of race operations.
What NASCAR did not do Saturday was unveil a list of banned substances. NASCAR officials maintain a list is restrictive and they reserve the right to test for any substance.
The random testing administered by AEGIS is expected to involve at least two drivers, two over-the-wall pit crew members and two NASCAR officials in each series each race weekend.
Penalties for violation of NASCAR's policy would continue to be among the harshest in sports, and includes immediate suspension from competition. It is possible a competitor could receive a lifetime ban for just one violation. A third violation would automatically result in a lifetime ban.
NASCAR would bear the cost of testing, except for the preseason tests for over-the-wall pit crew members, which would be paid by team owners.
"We have to respect NASCAR stepping up to the plate and making a little tougher policy. I've been involved in NASCAR since I've been 18 and have only been drug tested once," said driver David Ragan.
"I think it'll be great for everybody to get some type of a schedule and we get drug tested more frequently. I think we do have a very clean sport."