Motorcyle racers face P testing

Last updated 05:00 15/04/2014
lowe bike
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TOGETHER: Lance Lowe pictured with his father a few years ago.
lowe bike
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TRAGIC: Lance Lowe's mother, Kay, centre, was supported at the Hamilton Coroner's Court hearing by friends Katrina Richards and Dave Aro.

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The discovery of P in the blood of a competitor who crashed and died in a street race in Paeroa last year has prompted the motorcycle racing industry to introduce drug and alcohol testing for its competitors.

Lance Vaughan Lowe, 40, died after crashing during a practice lap just before the start of Paeroa's Battle of the Streets race on February 17.

In his evidence to Coroner Gordon Matenga, at a coroner's inquest held in Hamilton yesterday, Senior Constable Kent Morrissey of the Waikato police serious crash unit said speed and the methamphetamine found in Lowe's blood were factors in the crash.

Motorcycle New Zealand president Jim Tuckerman told the inquest that the organisation had changed several of its rules and procedures, in line with Motorcycle Australia, to combat drug and alcohol use in the sport.

They had also arranged for random testing by Drug Free Sport New Zealand before races.

It was likely its new regime would come into force in July, Tuckerman said.

Lowe was also discovered to not have competed in a race in the two years before his death, and Tuckerman said they had altered one of its rules that a rider must have taken part in at least three club events in the previous 12 months.

Questioned further by the coroner, Tuckerman also said any rider found with substances in their system would be suspended.

Morrissey said Lowe was on his second practice lap and had just passed friend Michael Old, of Auckland, when he appeared to take a corner too wide.

He hit the brakes, which caused the rear wheel to lift off the ground, before hitting a bump on the track, causing him to lose control of the bike.

Lowe was thrown into a safety barrier.

Old told the coroner that he saw a bike on the ground as he approached the corner. He then looked up and saw Lowe laying directly ahead of him, but despite slamming on the brake he was unable to avoid hitting Lowe while travelling about 140kmh.

Lowe died four days later in an Auckland hospital.

Old told the coroner he had known Lowe for about 15 years and described him as a "hell rider", someone who was extremely capable on a motorbike.

Ian Thompson, a steward for Motorcycle New Zealand during the race, said it was an "unremarkable" crash which normally every other rider would walk away from.

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"He stood no chance ... there was nothing you could do, it just all happened at once. He [Lowe] may have been going a little bit fast but he wasn't going silly fast. It was a racing speed but it didn't look like he was out of control until the moment he went down," Thompson told the inquest.

While the coroner said Lowe died due to severe head injuries suffered after being hit in the head and chest by Old's motorbike wheel, he was concerned to hear of the P in Lowe's system.

"It is, in my view, important to ensure that an inherently dangerous sport like motorcycle racing is made as safe as it can possibly be," he said. However, in light of Motorcycle NZ already taking steps to combat the issue, he stopped short of issuing any recommendations.

"Were it not for these steps being taken I would have made strong recommendations that such steps would have to be undertaken," the coroner said. He also reassured Old that he was not to blame.

"I just want to reaffirm to [Old] ... that in my view there was nothing he could have done to avoid the crash." As for whether the P affected Lowe, it "was not possible" to know.

Outside court, Lowe's mother, Kay, who labelled her son an "idiot" for using P, said she was aware he had tried it, but thought he had given it up. "Accidents happen, that guy [Old] had nowhere to go and he [Lowe] died doing something that he loved doing. Racing, any sport, is dangerous and it could have been the other way around," she said.

- Waikato

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