A first-grader is suspended and faces expulsion from an Ohio elementary school for taking a plastic knife from the school cafeteria. The school board said the plastic knife violated the school’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons.
In Dallas, a 97-year old woman was arrested, handcuffed, hands behind her back, and taken to jail. And her transgression was . . .? She failed to pay a traffic ticket.
Tommy Johnson Jr., an American drag racer with an impeccable reputation, not mention natural talent, travels to Europe to compete in the FIA’s Top Fuel Series. He wins every race not cancelled by ran rain, and with two races left in the season and needing only one round to clinch, he’s stripped of his license.
The message handed down Wednesday is that Johnson’s appeal of a 24-month suspension was reduced to 12 months but he was considered guilty of violating the series’ anti-doping rules, even though they believed there was never an intent for the doctor-prescribed drug in Johnson’s system to be used as a means of performance enhancement.
Johnson’s plastic-knife violation or unpaid parking ticket, his zero-tolerance infraction, was for having a Dexedrinbe in his system to treat a severe case of narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder which can put its victims to sleep without warning.
This is hardly the condition you want untreated when someone is behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, much less an 8,000-horsepower, nitro-burning dragster.
So let me see if I have this correct: You suspend a driver and tarnish his reputation for having a doctor-prescribed medication in his system under the presumption it is a performance enhancing supplement? Then you acknowledge it was a medical necessity and you still suspend him for a year because of a paperwork violation?
I’m struggling to determine if this is [A] an extreme case of arrogance, [B] anti-Americanism, [C] stupidity or [D] All of the Above.
I can only imagine the shirt Larry Morgan would have come up with to trump his famous, “You can’t fix stupid!”
FIA can claim rules violation all they want, but shouldn’t punishment fit the crime?
In their defense, FIA claims the team was given documentation prior to the first event in Santa Pod, a claim which Johnson refutes. In fact, Johnson had no idea this document existed, much less aware he needed to have the medication submitted prior to his participation in the series, until he was kicked out.
As far as Johnson knew, and likely the average person would be led to believe, when an NHRA license is approved as acceptable in a series, it means it is approved in all instances – not just the cherry-picked ones.
When you look at the rules, Johnson clearly wasn’t trying to circumvent them.
He was up-front and honest when he submitted to the test, and just like in NHRA competition, he listed Dexedrinbe as medication which will show up in the test. He not only submitted a copy of the prescription but also the doctor’s diagnosis.
If the anti-doping program is so important, why was Johnson not tested at the first race and not when he was one round away from clinching the title?
In the interest of fair reporting, I couldn’t write this editorial without bringing up the plight of Mike Strasburg, whose largest crime in the NHRA’s drug testing is that he wasn’t punctual in providing a sample and his sample wasn’t sufficient.
Thousands of dollars and many headaches later, he proved his initial claims of being clean through independent testing sources. The NHRA, exercising common sense, reduced the suspension to time served and fined him for not playing by the rules of testing.
The point I’m making is just like Strasburg’s technical violation, Johnson’s case is not one of a driver trying to get one by the series.
I do believe in the middle of this scenario, the NHRA could have stepped forward and watched out for one of our American drivers who always had been a symbol of good repute.
Even more frustrating is the opportunity a high-ranking NHRA official had to step forward and speak publicly on behalf of Johnson. A deafening silence came from the NHRA’s offices in Glendora, Calif.
In the end, at least politically, this could reflect poorly on the NHRA.
What does it say for American drag racing in the eyes of the arrogant FIA?
The Americans don’t adhere to the same high standard of testing that our European series does.
Tell me you don’t feel the same way.
Tell me how when Johnson has performed every additional test they requested short of a spine test, and still gets suspended?
Tell me how Johnson remained calm and cordial to the FIA in the midst of a clear character assassination?
Tell me how much more character a man has to have when someone is willing to step up and pay his lawyer fees without being asked to?
Tell me how you can suspend a man for taking a drug that his life depends on.
Well, what I can tell you is that he didn’t do it for money. Heck, he wasn’t even getting paid to drive the car. He just wanted to drive and win for the Andersen Racing team, a team who should be champions regardless of whether the FIA decides to strip his points or not.
I fully understand that Johnson’s fellow racers are honorable people and they don’t like this decision and this shame belongs to the series administrators. After all, if someone is awarded this championship, won’t it be tainted? If I was racing the series and was awarded the title, I would simply put No. 2 on my wing.
I wouldn’t want something I didn’t earn.
For my fellow Americans, understand this: you can race and win races: just don’t win the championship. If you get close to winning, magically run out of money so as not to get your name dragged through the mud.
When I look at Tommy Johnson Jr. from now on, I won’t see him as someone who failed under the FIA’s anti-doping rules.
I will see him as the kid with the plastic knife.
I will see him as the little old lady -- you know … the hardened criminal who didn’t pay her parking ticket.
What I won’t see him as – is the FIA Series champion. He couldn’t possibly be the champion of such a joke of a governing body.
What do you think?
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