Mindfulness and Meditation Might Be Bad For Your Company...

There's a great scene in the movie The Matrix i'll use as the intro to talking about mindfulness.  It goes something like this - one of the machines (Agent Smith) has captured the leader of the human resistance, and he can't help but taunt his prisoner (Morpheus) about how stupid the human race is.  The quote is as follows:

"Did you know that the first Matrix (editors note - this is the software program the human minds are plugged into as prisoners) was designed to be a perfect human world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program, entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world, but I believe that as a species that human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. So the perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say "your civilization" because as soon as we started thinking for you, it really became our civilization which is, of course what this is all about."

Translation - there can be a lot of unintended consequences to what seems like the right thing to do. Smith

So let's talk about mindfulness and meditation. I haven't been bitten by the bug, but I've actually been at conferences where someone asked the question if they could force people to use the meditation rooms at her company.

I'm not joking. 

Mindfulness and meditation are hot topics/trends in the cutting edge of corporate America.  There are a lot of people experimenting with this.  We accept through research that this is good for our employees (I'm assuming, I don't have research to quote), but we've never really asked if it's good for the company or even the employee's career.  Hmm.

A new study digs into that question. More from the BBC:

"Meditation has long shed its Buddhist roots to become a secular answer to all of our ills in the West, with numerous studies finding benefits like reduced stress and better concentration.

Some of the world’s biggest firms, including Google and Nike, have embraced the practice, using meditation programmes as a way of tackling stress, staff turnover and absenteeism.

Meditation is also used as a tool to motivate workers, partly thanks to research on the relationship between wellbeing and productivity. But a new study suggests that mindfulness meditation, a popular type of meditation that practises being aware in the present, may not be the best way to increase your motivation at work."

That's the level set for the research.  Here's what the study found about mindfulness meditation, which is a flavor you''ll encounter on your journey if you explore the sector of meditation:

“Meditation is about accepting the present, which is the opposite to being motivated to do something, where the present moment isn’t acceptable, so meditation is inconsistent with being motivated to achieving a goal,” argues Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.  

Vohs enlisted hundreds of participants to test her theory across five studies. In the first, 109 participants were given audio instructions in common mindfulness meditation techniques by a meditation coach. A comparison group were asked to simply let their minds wander.

After one 15-minute session, all participants were asked to tackle some simple tasks including doing an anagram puzzle and editing a cover letter. They were then asked how motivated they felt to carry on with the task.

Vohs, and her co-author Andrew Hafenbrack from the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics in Portugal, found that the self-reported motivation levels of those who had meditated were lower than the control group, though their performance of the task wasn’t affected. The meditators also had fewer thoughts about the future, which the researchers said could interrupt the behavioural processes that contribute to achieving goals.

“The Western world, Americans in particular, love a panacea,” she says. “If mindfulness meditation came in a pill form, we’d all be on top of it. It’s calorie-free, portable, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s capitalised onto you sitting down and doing nothing. To think the antidote to what ails you is to ‘just be’ is probably a welcome message, but it’s pure speculation.”

Meditation is a fast-growing industry – in 2018 meditation services are expected to generate $1.15bn for the US economy, according to IBISWorld’s Alternative Healthcare Providers in the US industry report – and Vohs’ message is an unusual one amid a generally positive tide.

Another study from Germany and the Netherlands that looked at mindfulness in the workplace, meanwhile, found participants reported improved wellbeing and lower stress levels, but didn’t look at motivation. 

So, the picture is mixed and, according to Desbordes, compounded by confusion over what mindfulness actually is. Some mindfulness teachers, she says, teach the importance of putting your daily suffering aside to achieve a new level of consciousness, whereas others advocate gaining insight into these challenges and how to improve them; two very conflicting approaches."

Look, I'm just a kid from the Midwest who lived in a blue collar household growing up.  

Am I skeptical of meditation and mindfulness?  Yes.  Am I open to learning more? Yes - and I have an app on my phone as proof I know I should be exploring this more.

But the article referenced above is a cautionary tale to me.  Agent Smith had to make the Matrix less than perfect to get the results the machines wanted.  Mindfulness Meditation might put your employees so much as ease that they're more mellow than you'd like them to be about goals.

The truth and the right solution is out there somewhere - but you're going to have to invest a lot of time to find it - and to ensure you don't get unintended consequences from your meditation program.

(h/t to Jenny Briggs for the article referenced, she's one of the best Human Capital pros I know!!)


You Hate BMI: Scientists Now Have Another Fat Metric You Can Hate Instead....

I know - you and everyone else hates Body Mass Index as a measure of what it means to be overweight. Invented in the early 1800s by a Belgian statistician, the measurement is used as a definitive benchmark: those with a score below 18.5 are underweight, those who fall between 18.5 and 24.9 are normal, those between 25 to 29.9 are overweight, and those 30 and higher are obese.

For years, medical professionals have taken issue with these cleanly drawn lines. The BMI scale, critics argue, is too simplistic to accurately reflect health on an individual basis. 13-vince-vaughn

Well, you wanted something different - and now you got it.  Instead of BMI, we're going with BVI, Body Volume Indicator.  You're welcome.  More from the Interwebs, commentary after this blurb about BVI:

Today, the Mayo Clinic adds its voice to the chorus. The medical care provider announced that is recommending a new system for measuring body composition and weight distribution: the Body Volume Indicator (BVI). Unlike BMI, which is formulated by comparing an individual’s weight in relation to his or her height, BVI considers “other crucial factors such as fat mass, lean mass, and weight distribution when determining an individual’s body composition,” Jose Medina-Inojosa, a cardiovascular research fellow at the Mayo Clinic, told Fortune. In addition to weight and height, information on waist-to-hip ratio, total body fat percentage, and abdominal volume is factored when determining a score.

Here’s how it works: doctors take two photos of their patients, wearing just their underwear, from the front and from the side. After the photos are taken, they are turned into 3D body silhouettes, and sent to a backend server where the images are compared to a database compiled from thousands of MRI images, 3D body scans, and Cadaver information. (The photos themselves are then deleted.)

By cross-referencing 3D silhouettes of patients with this database, the app provides more detailed information on weight distribution and volume, particularly for the abdomen, the area of the body “associated with the greatest risk for metabolic disease and insulin resistance,” said Medina-Inojosa. An increasing body of research suggests that fat in the midsection, which blankets the organs, is associated with a higher likelihood of premature mortality than fat carried in other areas of the body. Two women could be the same weight and height, but if one carries most of the weight in her hips, while the other’s is distributed primarily in the stomach, the latter would be at greater risk of developing a host of health issues. Their BMIs would be identical, but because BVI considers weight distribution and the percentage of fat stored in the abdominal cavity, those numbers would be different.

Is BVI a more accurate measure of obesity that matters?  Yes.

Are people still going to hate the measurement and question it's validity?  HELL yes.

The dirty little secret about these types of measurements is that they make us confront uncomfortable truths.  That's why the BMI was so fun to hate and also to deny.  It was easy to say, "I'm big-boned" or "I'm just husky".

Vince Vaughn is husky. You sir, are no Vince Vaughn.  You look like Chris Farley after an all-afternoon binge at Piccadilly. 

Anyway, the jist of BVI is this - it's a more accurate measurement of obesity that matters, and it's rooted in good science.  They're not telling you you're fat (although you might be), they're telling you the type of fat you have is a lot more dangerous than having some tricep flaps.

In this way, BVI provides a more direct measurement and a better call to action.

You're not fat, but your BVI shows you've got a problem.  Let's work on that.  

Here's hoping the BVI can catch on and scare some people to take action beyond denial statements like "Huskiness has always been a problem in my family".

Will denial decrease as a result of a more accurate measurement of being overweight?  I doubt it. 


Apple Pie, Chevrolet and Glassdoor's "Pledge To Thrive" Badge...

Glassdoor - you have to hand it to them - they know how to market their solution.  Just announced at Glassdoor - a "Pledge to Thrive" badge.  Here's the rundown from the Glassdoor blog:

"Now, Glassdoor is partnering with Thrive Global—Arianna Huffington’s new and groundbreaking venture to lower stress and burnout, and enhance well-being and productivity—to showcase employers who prioritize a thriving workplace.

Starting today, employers may sign on to the Pledge to Thrive to show they’re taking steps to prioritize well-being in their workplace. Any employer who has signed on to the Pledge to Thrive may promote their commitment to candidates and recruits as part of their employer brand on their company’s Glassdoor profile. In 2017, Glassdoor and Thrive Global will release a co-branded Thrive Index based on employees’ assessments of how their employer incorporates meaningful “thrive” practices into their workplaces and culture.

Set your company apart by letting your candidates and employees know you prioritize their well-being and understand the connection between thriving employees and a thriving business."  

Pledge to Thrive?  Hell yeah... Who could be against that?  It's up there with Apple Pie, Chevrolet and Mom as being All-American.

Nobody does Pledge to Thrive better than my company. How do you know?  Because I added the badge to our Glassdoor profile, dummy. It's right there - THRIVING.

Now, to be fair, we've got a lot of good stuff going on at Kinetix.  We've got wellness stuff, yoga (which I hear is related to wellness) and other things, all related to well-being. So it's real.

It's just that I didn't have to answer a lot of questions to get the badge added to our site - I actually had to answer none.  Did I want to answer questions?  No. I did not.  But it seems like some questions might be in order to get me to respond in the affirmative to prove the whole thrive thing.

For example, I recently wrote about a recent suicide attempt at Amazon in Seattle over at Fistful of Talent.  A guy sent an email saying he was disappointed in being put on a PIP and then jumped out of a window.

Could Amazon get the Pledge To Thrive badge showing their commitment to well-being?  It seems like they could, since my experience was clicking a checkbox and then "boom", we are a Pledge To Thrive employer.

But then I go on Amazon's Glassdoor profile and this is the first review I see:

Amazon glassdoor

"Exciting work, abusive culture". Hmm.  My gut tells me that's pretty accurate based on what I have read. If you're a baller in your profession, you can go to work at Amazon and work on amazing things - maybe wear a helmet, because it's a contact sport.  But abusive culture? That seems a little bit counter to the whole Pledge to Thrive thing.  But if Amazon wants that employer badge, it's there.  My gut tells me they are waaaaaay smarter than that.

But this example isn't to pick on Amazon.  It's just to show that adding badges with little certification of what they mean or what's required to get them shows the duality of Glassdoor.

What's the duality of Glassdoor? Their model is built on company reputation and reviews, but they sell to employers.  That's a conflict that's hard to resolve at times.

I'm hoping you Thrive in the rest of your week, people.  

Beyond Fitbit - What the Research Says About Weight Loss That Should Drive Wellness...

I'm feeling all wellness-oriented these days.  A while back, I posted on the opinion that FitBit and similar wearables don't do a damn things for wellness.  The people who exercise aren't your problem.  Here's the money quote from that post:

"Well, Kris - I'll tell you the deal we learned about Fitbit.  We've got over 10K employees.  We've got 1K of those who are actively trying to use a Fitbit.  Here's the problem - about 965 of those were people who were already into fitness - they're already working to stay in shape, etc.  So I got 35 people to change their lifestyle?  That's great, but there's no impact to the bottom line of my healthcare cost."

Is food calorie consumption your problem when it comes to wellness?  Well, that's an interesting question for HR and wellness leaders everywhere...Here's some notes from Aaron Carroll at the New York Times:

"Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.

2011 meta-analysis, a study of studies, looked at the relationship between physical activity and fat mass in children, and found that being active is probably not the key determinant in whether a child is at an unhealthy weight. In the adult population, interventional studies have difficulty showing that a physically active person is less likely to gain excess weight than a sedentary person. Further, studies of energy balance, and there are many of them, show that total energy expenditure and physical activity levels in developing and industrialized countries are similar, making activity and exercise unlikely to be the cause of differing obesity rates.

Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite. After all, when you burn off calories being active, your body will often signal you to replace them. Research confirms this. A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake."

Translation - controlling weight and health is easier accomplished by opting not to scarf the Snickers bar, rather than rationalizing that you'll burn it off.

We could probably make a lot more headway into wellness by offering people a variety of behavior modification techniques related to food rather than funding Fitbits.

I'm a gadget guy.  FitBits are cool.  But saying no to calories you don't need is where the money is at from a wellness perspective.  

Your Employees Are Fat - Blame the Wal-Mart Supercenter...

Of course, I don't believe that, but it's interesting to consider the blame game that always seems to land at the front steps of Wal-Mart.  From research entitled "Supersizing Supercenters? The Impact of Wal-Mart Supercenters on Body Mass Index and Obesity":

"Researchers have linked the rise in obesity to technological progress reducing the opportunity cost of food consumption and increasing the opportunity cost of physical activity. We examine this hypothesis in the context of Walmart Supercenters, whose advancements in retail logistics have translated to substantial reductions in the prices of food and other consumer goods. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System matched with Walmart Supercenter entry dates and locations, we examine the effects of Supercenters on body mass index (BMI) and obesity. We account for the endogeneity of Walmart Supercenter locations with an instrumental variables approach that exploits the unique geographical pattern of Supercenter expansion around Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

An additional Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.24 units and the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points. These results imply that the proliferation of Walmart Supercenters explains 10.5% of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s, but the resulting increase in medical expenditures offsets only a small portion of consumers’ savings from shopping at Supercenters."

So Wal-Mart comes with cheap food and we get fat.  Somebody else is to blame, but your self-insured Medical plan is the one that has to pay.  What's that?  You're thinking about putting in discounts to employee contributions for healthcare for people who live healthy?  Watch yourself, Spartan - there's plenty of legislation out there that prevents you from doing anything (Hi GINA!) that will actually change behavior.

I've got an idea.  Buy foods with less fat and work out 3-4 times a week. The low fat foods at Wal-Mart are cheaper too.  How about that?

When Wellness Sucks... Nobody Wins, People...

A lot of you out there are haters when it comes to wellness.  You know who you are... You think that there's no ROI in wellness programs, that companies have no right to push, prod or otherwise seek ways to make employees take care of themselves in an effort to control the overall cost of administering a group medical plan...

This video is for YOU!  Smoke 'em if you got em...

Below is one of the most "money" videos you'll ever see related to wellness.  You want wellness stereotypes?  This video has them all, from the over-bearing internal wellness champion, the cliche' fitness instructor who comes in to do a class, the BS shake-type drink, even the girl hooked on crank who wins the weight loss contest as a result.

Because let's face it, the wellness program that focuses on weight loss WINS!  What's your BMI?  Mine's 14.2.  I'm shooting to get it under 14 by the end of the year. Don't hate me because I'm skinny.  HATE THE GAME...

Watch this video and love it - then click out to the companion site called whenwellnesssucks.com and take the quiz designed to tell you - you guessed it - whether your wellness program sucks.  It was bankrolled by a wellness firm headquartered in Portland named Recess, that's led by a disruptive force whom I admire and respect - Tanya Barham.  She rocks. 

If you see any of your company's wellness program in this video, you might want to call Tanya...

Praise to Employees - The Matrix Chart From Hell...

Big idea for the day...  Why do companies talk a lot about employee recognition and praise, but employees get so little of it?  2 reasons in my book below:

1. Managers don't know how to give it (they're not actors, and most are uncomfortable in thisHows_my_driving role).

2. It's REALLY HARD as a customer to get praise to the right employee in an organization.

Let's focus on #2 in this post.  Why is it so hard to get praise to the right employee in an organization?  Let's say you just had a great interaction with a call center rep who did amazing things to take ownership, calm you down and resolve your issue, even though you were irate at the beginning of the call.  Does the company make it easy to share that feedback?  Most of the time, the answer is no.

More notes on this from a Made to Stick column at Fast Company:

"Imagine you're in a Tex-Mex restaurant, eating an awe-inspiring quesadilla. You may rave about it to the waiter, but chances are, your praise will never make it to the person who counts: the cook. Or maybe you appreciate the extra-deep cup holder in your Toyota, which holds your venti latte snugly. Where do you send the thank-you note? If you're lucky, it'll be read by corporate communications, who'll write a soulless acknowledgment. But the engineer who designed it -- and the product manager who fought for it -- will never know how you feel.

That's a tragedy on multiple levels, first for the employees who never receive your warm fuzzies. Pick any non-customer-service employee at random from your company. When was the last time that person received positive feedback directly from a customer? If the answer is "never," that's as cruel as an unwatered plant. Or an ignored Madonna."

The lesson for HR people, in my eyes, is to be more than cheerleaders when it comes to praise.  It's fine to preach to the world the benefits of praise as a HR pro, but from a business standpoint, what are you thinking about from a systems/communications/customer standpoint that can facilitate praise directly to the employee?  Can you develop those types of systems with the proper amount of recognition to the company/manager/team about the employee's performance?

You've got to think like a systems designer to pull it off.  One example pointed out at the Made to Stick column on praise is the "How's My Driving" signs on the back of millions of company trucks on the roads of America:

"For more inspiration, consider Kelmar Safety, which manages those How's My Driving? programs for trucking fleets. Ever wonder if the drivers hear the comments you make when you dial the 800-number? Absolutely, according to Kelmar's CEO and president Christina Kelly. Every single time. At least one company has figured out how to get the right comment to the right person.

We know you're thinking that gratitude may not be foremost among the sentiments expressed on those calls. But take heart, cynical one: 18% of the calls are compliments. (Actual compliment: "He was great. He blinked his lights at me to let me out.") Maybe one out of six isn't such a great hit ratio, but think how much better your organization might perform on this metric if it's in an industry not known for road rage."

You already know praise is important as an HR pro.  You'll have to think like a business person to figure out how it can have an actual impact in your organization.

After the Interview, We'll Just Need You To Jump On The Treadmill....

I'll admit I don't have a lot of hard-core manufacturing experience.  That's why I had one of those "What the..." moments when I read that a Black and Decker plant uses their pre-employment screening package to determine, among other things, whether production candidates have a high probability to develop carpel-tunnel syndrome via the required job responsibilties.

From CNN's Coverage:

"Victor Breehe has filed a class-action suit against Black and Decker in Tennessee, claiming theCarpel_tunnel company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Breehne, who applied for a job last year at a Black & Decker plant in Jackson, Tenn., that manufactures Porter Cable brand power tools, said in a court filing that he was offered the job contingent on passing a medical exam.

A company doctor stimulated forearm nerves that control hand muscles and concluded it would be inappropriate for Breehne to work in a "highly wrist- sensitive job," the filing said.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also challenged the tests, which aren't uncommon in manufacturing settings, on ADA grounds. The agency lost a federal lawsuit in 2001 against Rockwell Automation Inc. (ROK) after that company denied jobs to 72 applicants at an Illinois plant.

The EEOC believes the test doesn't reliably predict the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, or whether it would pose an imminent threat to the person's safety, Chris Kuczynski, assistant legal counsel and director of the ADA policy division at EEOC, told The Baltimore Sun."

Wow.  "Company doctors stimulated forearm nerves that control hand muscles" kind of caught me off guard.  My first thought is that, positioned the right way, this could be spun as some sort of spa treatment.  My next thoughts are the obvious ones for a HR person and more grounded in reality.   Is having weak hand and forearm muscles a disability and covered by the ADA?   If the employee can do the job today but is simply more probable to develop a condition down the road, can you eliminate them from consideration?  Should the companies using these type of tests conduct them pre-offer, so it becomes one of 10-20 hiring criteria?

So, today, it's testing to limit liability that can be caused by a specific job activity.  With health care becoming more and more expensive, does tommorrow bring testing to see if the company can afford to provide medical coverage to the candidate in question?

Just need you to get on the treadmill after the second round of behavioral interviews.  Don't worry, we'll do it last and then you can go.  If you break 20 minutes in the 5K, there's a signing bonus involved....

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em - Or Not...

Some random pickups on smoking from my RSS feed this week suggest cessation programs are worth the money, and maybe the thing to do if ADA expands into this area. 

First, Tanya Barham, CEO of wellness firm, Recess, and a future contributor to a Benefits blog we're Leary launching in December, riffs on the business case for smoking cessation programs in the Portland Business Journal:

"The Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 23 percent of American adults smoke.  And according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, men who smoke incur $15,800 (in 2002 dollars) more in lifetime medical expenses and are absent from work four days more per year than men who do not smoke. Women who smoke incur $17,500 (in 2002 dollars) more in lifetime medical expenses and are absent from work two days more each year than nonsmoking women.

CDC statistics show that 70 percent of smokers would like to quit, but few are able to do so on their own. The irony is that even though the National Business Group on Health reports that 82 percent of employers state they should take steps to help employees quit smoking, only 24 percent of employers actually offer such benefits.

The numbers show that simply banning smoking in the workplace is not an effective means of enticing smokers to quit. Even though 67 percent of employers enforce a smoke-free workplace policy, employees of such workplaces say:

  • Some 78 percent state the company's policy is not effective in motivating them to quit.
  • A mere 14 percent claimed to attempt quitting because of their employer's smoke-free workplace policy.
  • Another 15 percent report starting to smoke more while not at work.

As to the effectiveness of cessation programs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Clinical Practice Guidelines state that tobacco use treatment doubles the chance that smokers will manage to kick the habit. The guidelines recommend counseling, medications or a combination of both as the most effective means to combat smoking in the workplace."

Next up, friend of the Capitalist Michael Moore explores ADA implications related to smoking, and smoking cessation programs:

"Smokers are feeling the heat in the workplace through smoke-free workplace policies. Jon Hyman at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog has a post asking Are there legal risks with smoking bans?  He notes that pushing back on these employer initiatives are  29 states which have enacted laws protecting employees who smoke from discrimination.

Pennsylvania has no law protecting smokers from discrimination. To the contrary, Pennsylvania’s new Clean Indoor Air Act mandates smoke-free workplaces and precludes employees from smoking indoors. However, the law allows employers to prohibit smoking anywhere on company property; it does not prevent the continuation of outdoor smoking areas. Employers are left with the sometimes delicate task of crafting a policy concerning outdoor smoking and monitoring the break schedules of employees who wish to smoke. In addition, many wellness programs have targeted smoking with cessation programs coupled with both financial incentives and penalties.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was recently amended to expand the definition of “disability”to the point that it may encompass nicotine addiction. The few ADA cases on “smoking” as a disability have not recognized a claim based on the pre-amendment definition of disability. However, the rationale for denying disability status to “smoking” or “nicotine addiction” is squarely predicated on the remedial nature of the condition exempting it from coverage of the ADA as expounded in Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc."

Smoking covered by the ADA?  What's next, alcohol?  Wait a second...

Shake and Bake! NASCAR Does Random Drug Testing...

Before I get started on this one, I'm not the bogeyman coming to take all your personal rights away.  I know that we've got a LOT of variety in workplaces in America, and not every company needs a random drug testing policy.

Let's go through the list real quick...Talladeganightsdvdposter

-Library - no testing necessary
-Record Shop Dudes - If you're peddling vinyl, we may need you on that wall... no testing necessary
-Wal-Mart Greeter - What makes you happy?  No testing necessary.
-Guys Who Race Cars 200 mph (2 feet apart) - no testing necessary... hold up... maybe we need it there...

In a shocking display of "what were they thinking?", NASCAR (professional stock car racing) finally got around LAST WEEK to putting in a random drug testing policy.  That's right, the guys who race stock cars 200 mph haven't had the possibility of random testing until 2008. 

Notes from the "hey, you think we oughta test the guys for smack since they can kill each other in an instant?" camp courtesy of The Sports Network:

"NASCAR unveiled its upgraded substance- abuse policy over the weekend, to include random testing beginning in 2009. All drivers, crew members and even race officials will be tested prior to the start of next season, and will be subject to random tests throughout the year.

NASCAR's current drug policy has been in place for over 20 years, but has been scrutinized by competitors such as Kevin Harvick in the past months, after former Craftsman Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to using heroin on race days. In July 2007, Fike was arrested and charged with heroin possession in the parking lot of an amusement park in Ohio."

That's right - heroin.  Before you stop shaking your head, NASCAR also believes its new policy is the model for all other sports, mainly because they don't succumb to the administration associated with keeping an actual list of which drugs are illegal:

"NASCAR covered all of its principles in the new substance-abuse policy, with the exception of outlining what is illegal. The sanctioning body provided no list of which drugs are banned.

"We think we have the broadest policy in all of sports," Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's vice president of racing operations, said during a press conference Saturday at the Dover International Speedway. "The reason we don't have a list is we believe that a list is restrictive. If you've seen a lot of other leagues, the policy is constantly changing. We know that there's new drugs out there every day. By having a broad policy that doesn't list anything, we feel like we can test for any substance that may be abused, no different than our policy is today."

With all this on the record, I can't wait for the drug-free public service announcements that are sure to follow from NASCAR.  I just hope they have a "Talladega Nights" feel to them (email subscribers click through for video):