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Amid backlash, Patrick backs away from PED comments

Danica Patrick has apologized for some controversial comments made to Sports Illustrated before the Indy 500, saying, "The whole interview with Dan [Patrick], and every other interview I've ever done with Dan, the questioning comes from left field. It was just a joke and I really apologize if it came across any other way. ... It was a bad joke. 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. ... It's absolutely not what I'm about. I've learned my lesson on what I should be joking about."

Danica made her comments to USA Today columnist Christine Brennan over the weekend,after an interview with SI columnist Dan Patrick in which the 27-year-old driver was asked the following set of questions:

Dan: "If you could take a performance-enhancing drug and not get caught, would you do it if it allowed you to win Indy?

Danica: Well, then it's not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out?

Dan: So you would do it?

Danica: 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."

(Dan Patrick's radio interview with Danica Patrick can be heard here.)

Since then, Danica Patrick's comments were picked up around the Web and been much discussed among racing fans.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart told SI.com, "We're glad she apologized, admitting that she made a terrible mistake, and we accept that. But it's clear that cheating, whether you get caught or not, is wrong. And if left unchecked, the temptations to do it are high, which is why you need to have the most effective policies in place to stop the threat of cheating."

With her provocative commercials for GoDaddy.com and SI Swimsuit appearances, Patrick's popularity has never been higher. She ranks among the most searched female athletes in the world and is easily the most popular driver in the IndyCar Series. Speculation on her racing future is the topic du jour in the IRL: Her contract with Andretti Green Racing ends after the season, and talk has swirled about a potential move to F1 or, most notably, NASCAR, which would raise her profile significantly.

"I'm being asked about it," Patrick said about leaving the IRL. "I'm not bringing it up. I'm not slipping it into conversations, 'Well, you know it's my contract year.' I'm being honest. I'm going to check it all out. I guess I'm being more honest about it than I was last time. I'm also more open to it than I was last time."

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