IndyCar racer Danica Patrick insists she was joking when she said using performance-enhancing drugs would only be cheating if she got caught.
Not so funny, says the leader of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart said Patrick's comments, printed in Monday's edition of Sports Illustrated, were "totally irresponsible."
"In one interview, she undercut what millions of parents try their best to teach their kids everyday in this country, that winners never cheat and cheaters never win," Tygart said.
In an interview with Dan Patrick published in Sports Illustrated, Danica Patrick was asked, if she could take a performance-enhancing drug and not get caught, would she do it if it allowed her to win the Indianapolis 500.
"Well, then it's not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out?" she said.
Dan Patrick responded: "So you would do it?"
Danica's answer: "Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motorsports, we work in the gray areas a lot. You're trying to find where the holes are in the rule book."
Danica Patrick later said her answers were a joke and she apologized if they came across differently.
"It was a bad joke," she said in an interview that appeared in USA Today. "There is a lot of sensitivity in our culture about (performance-enhancing drugs). With all the baseball stuff, I've followed it and this is a real problem. It's a shame kids think they have to do this to get ahead. It's very dangerous."
Patrick's publicist, Lewis Kay, told The Associated Press that Patrick felt she had "addressed the matter thoroughly with her comments to USA Today."
Patrick finished third at Indy last month. Her contract with Andretti Green Racing expires after this year and there's speculation about her possibly moving to NASCAR or Formula One.
NASCAR, meanwhile, is taking a much more active approach against drugs in the garage. Six crew members and driver Jeremy Mayfield have been suspended since NASCAR began random testing this year.
Tygart said he was glad Patrick apologized for her comments.
"Although joking about the use of dangerous and unhealthy drugs that cheaters use to rob clean athletes of their dreams is no laughing matter," he said.
(This version CORRECTS CLARIFIES that interview appeared in USA Today newspaper in 10th graf. corrects Kay's title in 11th graf.)