NASCAR won't discipline Hornaday for admitted testosterone use

Updated: September 13, 2008, 12:48 AM ET
Associated Press

LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR is expected to soon complete a tougher drug policy, but the new language would not likely change how the sanctioning body handled Ron Hornaday's admission to using testosterone.

Hornaday told ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael earlier this week that he used a testosterone cream during 2004 and 2005 to treat a medical issue. NASCAR met with the reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion on Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway and found no reason to punish Hornaday for the admission.

Hornaday also revealed he has Graves' disease, a condition he is now treating with Synthroid, which replaces a hormone normally produced by the thyroid gland to regulate the body's energy and metabolism.

"We don't see where Ron did anything wrong," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "Our substance abuse experts have told us the prescription Ron Hornaday used did not enhance his performance or impair his judgment. It is our understanding Ron had a very serious health issue, which is continuing to be addressed."

Hunter was joined during an impromptu news conference by Hornaday and Kevin Harvick, who with his wife owns the truck team Hornaday drove to his third series title last season. Hornaday was second in the standings heading into Saturday's race at New Hampshire.

[+] EnlargeRon Hornaday
AP Photo/Glenn SmithRon Hornaday, 50, told ESPN The Magazine this week that he used testosterone to treat a medical malady.
Harvick was fiercely supportive of his driver Friday, explaining that Hornaday had been ill for quite a long time and struggling to figure out what was wrong. Hornaday said he'd lost a lot of weight -- as much as 30 pounds at one point -- and was seriously ill during the first two races of the 2006 season. He needed intravenous fluids before both events, and Harvick finally had enough.

"From a friend standpoint, when we saw Ron's health start to deteriorate, it's not about driving, it's about somebody's personal health," Harvick said. "He was misdiagnosed twice. After the California race, I told him. 'That's it. You're done until you figure out what's wrong.'

"From an owner's standpoint, maybe that's not how I should have done it. But from a friend's standpoint, that's how I did it."

Harvick tricked Hornaday into visiting the race shop, where Hornaday was met at the door by friend and former driver Rick Carelli, who was there to take Hornaday to see Harvick's personal physician.

It was there that Hornaday finally received the correct diagnosis of Graves' disease.

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"I asked if I could take care of it after the season and he said no, it was a life-and-death situation right now and I needed to take care of it," Hornaday recalled.

Hornaday was adamant that in trying to treat his ailments himself before the diagnosis he was not seeking any sort of competitive edge or doing anything he believed would put other competitors in jeopardy.

"I don't take aspirin," he said. "I love my beer, but I don't drink beer the night before a race and I don't drink on the race track. You guys know I have nothing ever to hide."

NASCAR veteran Jeff Burton also defended Hornaday.

"Ron looked horrible, he looked sick," Burton said. "There was something wrong with him and he was just trying to get healthy."

Under NASCAR's current drug policy, testosterone is not listed by name under banned substances, Hunter said, and even when the stricter policy is released, Hunter doesn't think it will be addressed because there are too many instances in which a doctor could legally prescribe a steroid.

NASCAR chairman Brian France recently said the sanctioning body will "expand the scope" of its current drug policy and it should involve more testing. The current policy allows for testing when there is a "reasonable suspicion" someone is using banned substances.

Now NASCAR is discussing implementing a form of random testing, which, coincidentally, Harvick and his wife had already adopted at Kevin Harvick Inc.

Attention on the existing policy increased when former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to ESPN The Magazine that he had used heroin -- even on days he raced. That led a number of drivers, including Harvick and two-time series champion Tony Stewart, to call on NASCAR to add random drug testing.

But any tweaks to the policy were expected to address mind-altering narcotics and alcohol, as steroid use has never been believed to be a problem in NASCAR.

"It's not as physical of a sport as it is a mental sport," said four-time series champion Jeff Gordon. "Is there a steroid or drug out there that could be prescribed to help you with that? If that's the case, that could be considered performance-enhancing. Beyond that, I think this subject needs to be looked at pretty lenient.

"I think we're going to make way more of this one with Hornaday than needs to be."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press