Who is Randy Lanier? How IndyCar driver turned a marijuana-smuggling kingpin

Who is Randy Lanier? How IndyCar driver turned a marijuana-smuggling kingpin
An archival photo of Randy Lanier in his racing gear (Netflix)

There have been many controversies in sporting history that shocked the entire world. Be it the USA Gymnastics sexual assault scandal or Lance Armstrong’s dope test fails, such highly scandalous moments in sports left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and changed sports forever.

One such controversy is going to be unraveled by the brilliant minds working at Netflix in the new documentary series ‘Bad Sport’. The series seems to be a worthy addition to the streaming platform’s long list of sports docuseries like ‘The Last Dance’, ‘Schumacher’ and ‘Icarus’. The show will talk about six of the biggest controversies in the world of sports and one of the stories to feature on the series will be of IndyCar driver Randy Lanier.



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Lanier was considered to be one of the talented drivers and was considered to be the next big thing in the racing world. But, what happened was that he went from being a bright prospect to be the bad boy of IndyCar driving.

Let’s dig a little deeper and know the truth about Lanier’s wrongdoings.


A still from 'Bad Sport' (Netflix)

Who is Randy Lanier?

Born on September 22, 1954, Randy Lanier is a professional race car driver who was born in Virginia and brought up in South Florida. A few years later, he was caught with an ounce of cannabis in school and was going to be suspended. He dropped out of high school to avoid suspension and later earned a Certificate of High School Equivalency after taking General Educational Development (GED) tests.

Lanier started his motorsport career in 1978 and made his professional debut in 1981 at the IMSA Camel GT series. He finished 30th during the event. The following season at the 24 Hours of Daytona, he was approached by a crew member for the North American Racing Team to fill in for Janet Guthrie, who was unable to race due to illness. His first podium finish came at ‘6 Hours of Mosport’, and the other at the Mid-Ohio 6 Hours.

In 1984, after a string of amazing races, he formed his own racing team called Blue Thunder Racing. In 1986, he won the Rookie of The Year accolade.


Randy Lanier with wife Pam Lanier in 'Bad Sport' (Netflix)


Drug conviction and imprisonment

At the age of 14, he started consuming cannabis for recreational use but soon started to sell drugs on the side. The selling of drugs earned him a lot of money at a very young age and by the age of 20, he bought an $18,000 boat for leisure. However, he started using the boat for smuggling marijuana out of the Bahamas. Soon, he and his wife Pam were living in luxurious houses as he continued to sell drugs on his own terms and there was no middleman now.

He becomes one of the most extraordinary figures in the smuggling world. Later, he started pumping the drug money into his professional racing team. Between races, Lanier and his partners had also smuggled in another barge load, this time carrying about 75 tons of Colombian Gold.  A week prior to the Indy time trials, his former driving partner Bill Whittington was arrested and Lanier's name began to surface. A few weeks later, his partner and brother-in-law, Ronald Harris Ball, was arrested and denied bail.

An arrest warrant was issued against Lanier and he was believed to be worth $68 million at the time of his arrest. Lanier disappeared right before his arrest and was later taken into custody in Antigua. Lanier and his partner received life without parole sentences on 4 October 1988. The duo was given heavy punishment because they were not being cooperative with the judiciary. Lanier was convicted of two charges: engaging in a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and conspiring to distribute more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana. He received a life sentence without parole.


Randy Lanier in 'Bad Sport' (Netflix)


Unexpected release from prison

The former race driver was released from prison on October 15, 2014, after spending almost 27 years in jail. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website also confirmed Lanier's date of discharge conditional to the requirement that he spends a six-month duration in a halfway house before entering a three-year-long supervised release into a society where will be disallowed alcohol and/or firearms.

Randy is currently working at a rehabilitation center in Hollywood, FL treating patients recovering from substance abuse.

The extraordinary story will be retold in the upcoming Netflix documentary series ‘Bad Sport’, which will be premiering exclusively on Wednesday, October 6.


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