NASCAR officials keep a watchful eye on the No. 22 Penske Dodge while the team makes adjustments for relief driver of suspended driver AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish, Jr. Photo by Karen Pistone/Racingal.com
I was sitting in the media center at Daytona International Speedway finishing up my article I was writing on my interview I had with Nascar Artist Sam Bass, when I started hearing some commotion among other media members. Camera and video personnel were setting up, plugging in their equipment… and doing it rather quickly. NASCAR XM Sirius’s Clair B. Lang came running inside, microphone and cord flying in the air, trying to get situated for a broadcast…. but for what? It was out of the norm to see everyone so rushed, usually they know ahead of time if there will be an interview, so I figured something was going down. Something BIG. So I sat tight and waited. After a few minutes, Steve O’Donnell – Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for NASCAR walked in and took a seat at the microphone up at the front of the room. I noticed he was holding a piece of paper, which was folded vertically, in his hand. It was then announced to ALL media that no questions will be taken after the announcement. Then it happened. O’Donnell clears his throat, fixes his tie and reads the following statement:
Driver AJ Allmendinger Temporarily Suspended From NASCAR Competition
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 7, 2012) – Driver AJ Allmendinger has been temporarily suspended from NASCAR competition based upon notification of a positive “A” test NASCAR received from the Medical Review Officer as stated in Section 19-11B (6,7) of the NASCAR Substance Abuse Policy. Pursuant to the rule book, Allmendinger has the opportunity to request within the next 72 hours that his “B” sample be tested.
NASCAR will follow its policies and procedures set forth in the
rule book in dealing with this matter.
That’s when I hear the clicking of the cameras and the tapping of the keys on the keyboard. The news just broke that A.J. Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR just hours before Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway for failing a random drug test which was administered at Kentucky Speedway on June 29th.
Wow! This was HUGE!
The following statement was by AJ Allmendinger’s business manager, Tara Ragan to the Associated Press:
“He was a little dumbfounded and shell-shocked Saturday night, and yesterday,
it just seemed a little surreal. It’s just so far from AJ’s character,
and he’s trying to come to terms with what has just happened
and figure out how this could happened and respect NASCAR’s process.”
But why did it take so long for the results if the sample was tested last week? Because, according to NASCAR, there are many different substances that samples get tested for and could take up to a week to get results. Here’s a list of what is among some of the substances NASCAR crews are tested for:
Seven different amphetamines, including methamphetamine and PMA, a synthetic psychostimulant and hallucinogen.
- Three drugs classified under ephedrine.
- 13 different narcotics, including codeine and morphine.
- Ten different benzodiazepines and barbituates.
- Marijuana, cocaine, zolpidem, nitrites, chromates and drugs that can increase specific gravity.
(the crews include – pit crew members, including “over-the-wall” crew members, the crew chief, car chief, team members responsible for tires, fuel and pit crew operation, spotters and race-day support personnel that includes engineers, engine tuners, shock specialists, chassis specialists and tire specialists).
And in case you are wondering what the “wording” is for the Drug Policy stated in the NASCAR Rule Book, here’s a teaser:
Section 19-1 NASCAR RULE BOOK
“… NASCAR prohibits the misuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, and any other substance used in a matter that affects safety or impacts the integrity of the competition including – but not limited to – illegal or performance enhancing substances. All NASCAR Members are responsible for whatever goes into their body.”
In 2011, NASCAR made several changes to its substance abuse policy, including a longer explanation of the dangers of mixing medications and specifying who is subject to tests for performance-enhancing drugs. An addition of synthetic marijuana, such as K2 or Spice. While NASCAR had in its previous policy that the mixture of medications could cause a violation, it is much more defined with the new policy. Changes also include:
• NASCAR lists who will be tested for performance-enhancing drugs: drivers, tire changers, tire carriers, jack men and gas men.
• NASCAR includes a section reminding teams that new crewmen must pass a drug test before entering the garage.
• NASCAR added a section that defines a refused test. The list includes someone who doesn’t cooperate with the test or someone who tries to mask the results.
• NASCAR also has named its reinstating process as the “Road to Recovery” program.
A.J. Allmendinger. Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
So when a driver receives a failed drug test notice, of course everyone wants to know what was the substance in question is. NASCAR’s Brian France stated “there is a privacy area because we’re talking about someone’s medical records and someone’s health records. Our view of it is that there’s nothing to be gained by disclosing exactly what the substance was that tested positive.”
NASCAR amended their drug testing policy in 2008, to include random drug testing, which started in 2009. Drivers, over-the-wall crew members and NASCAR officials are subject to random tests throughout each of the NASCAR seasons. But what are the chances that one would get selected for a random drug test? What exactly is the Substance Abuse Policy? Here’s a breakdown:
- Competitors are asked to take a drug test if there is “reasonable suspicion.”
- Anyone who obtains any kind of NASCAR license must sign an “authorization for testing and release” waiver each season.
- NASCAR can ask for samples of urine, blood, saliva, hair or breath tests if “reasonable suspicion” of drug use has been established.
- A number of NASCAR officials are trained to take and seal samples for testing, and all are versed in detecting signs of impairment.
- NASCAR encourages “whistle blowing” among its competitors to help police its substance abuse policy.
- NASCAR reserves the right to suspend a competitor based on a conviction for driving a passenger vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a drug-related conviction.
- Competitors and officials are prohibited from consuming alcohol prior to or during a race.
- If a person fails a drug test and wants to return to racing, he or she must submit to a series of spot testing. The person being tested must pay for the examinations.
- If an individual is reinstated, NASCAR reserves the right to randomly test that individual.
- NASCAR does not recommend specific rehabilitation programs but strongly encourages self-help and treatment for those afflicted with a drug problem or alcohol abuse.
THE TESTING – A & B SAMPLES
All of NASCAR’s drug testing is done at AEGIS Sciences Corporation based in Tennessee, headed by Dr. David L. Black. As we all know, Dr. Black had gained notoriety when it came to Jeremy Mayfield’s failed drug test. AEGIS, which has worked with NASCAR on designing and implementing its substance abuse policy, is the largest independent sports and forensic certified testing laboratory in the United States.
Both samples are tested at the AEGIS Sciences Corp. in TN. Allmendinger has the right to ask for an outside expert to be present if the B sample is tested. Allmendinger and/or Penske Racing can not request another “new” test to be done because the sample collected June 29th at Kentucky is the only sample that will be tested. When that one sample is collected, it is then split into two – hence the A sample and B sample.
According to NASCAR’s Drug Testing Policy, Allmendinger now has one of two things that can happen:
- If the B sample is requested to be tested and passes the test, Allmendinger must complete a NASCAR outlined recovery program.
- If the B sample is requested to be tested and fails, suspension becomes indefinite.
Since the Mayfield incident, NASCAR changed its drug testing policy. “It takes a lot longer,” said Kasey Kahne, who was tested shortly after the Mayfield drama. “There’s a lot more paperwork, you have initial every step that happens.” While being tested at Sonoma a few years back, Kahne had to retrieve his license from the hauler, which had never been required before, and held things up for the other drivers. Also NASCAR toughened its testing policy during the same season, because former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to using heroin, even on days he raced.
With NASCAR’s procedures, anyone who gets a positive read, DOES have an opportunity to say “my drug test was positive because of…..” And according to Brian France, if someone’s taking the correct medications for the right reasons and they aren’t impairing their ability to drive the car, that failed test could be resolved without a violation. “It’s not uncommon for crew members or drivers to call and talk to Dr. Black and get the information or explain the prescription that they’re on and find it determined to be just fine and not in violation of our policy beforehand,” said France during a media conference back in 2009. The Medical Review Officer (MRO) then investigates the claim, if one is given. It is not until AFTER the explanation is investigated by MRO that NASCAR is informed of the failed drug test. The MRO first alerted Allmendinger of his positive test about six hours before the suspension was announced. Then the MRO alerted NASCAR to the positive result – which was done at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. NASCAR then met with Allmendinger and a senior Penske official. The suspension was announced to the media just 90 minutes before the start of the Coke Zero 400.
That set Penske Racing into action looking for a relief driver, but not for long. They knew exactly who they wanted.
With news coming up from Daytona on Allmendinger’s suspension, Sam Hornish, Jr. was pulled away from a prior commitment as an analyst for a live broadcast and immediately placed on a plane headed south for Daytona International Speedway.
Penske then released the following statement:
“NASCAR notified Penske Racing this afternoon that AJ Allmendinger
was administered a drug test earlier this week, and those results
tested positive. NASCAR has a strict drug testing program that
Penske Racing fully supports. Penske Racing will work with
NASCAR through this process and its next steps. Sam Hornish
will drive the No. 22 car in (Saturday’s) Coke Zero 400.”
Sam Hornish Jr. makes his way to the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge on pit road. Allmendinger replacement for the Coke Zero 400. Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 pm, with Hornish landing at 7:25 pm at the Daytona Beach Airport, which, thankfully, is right behind the Speedway. Hornish arrived under police escort, where he explained, “Hey, it’s better to be escorted into the track, rather than out of the track!” Hornish held his hand over his heart during the National Anthem while he walked quickly towards No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge sitting on pit road. He had just made it with seconds to spare.
OTHER DRIVERS ON PROBATION/SUSPENDED IN THE PAST FEW YEARS:
NASCAR Places John Wes Townley on probation for remainder of year – Nationwide Series driver for underage possession of alcohol – 3/22/2012
NASCAR Places Michael Annett On Probation For Remainder Of Year for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – 2/11/2011
Jack C. Smith suspended indefinitely from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – 11/22/2011
*NASCAR has reinstated Jack Smith, a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Smith’s reinstatement comes following his Sept. 7, 2010 suspension for actions detrimental to stock car racing. Smith remains under NASCAR probation until Dec.31, 2011.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Driver Ronnie Hults Suspended Indefinitely Due To Violation Of NASCAR Substance Abuse Policy – 8/19/2011
NASCAR has reinstated Denise Harmon-Mixon, a crew member in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, following her successful completion of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program
Shane Sieg, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, has been suspended for violating Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 19 (violation of the substance abuse policy) – 8/22/2011
Gary Frost suspended for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – May 24, 2011
*Gary Frost has successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program and has been reinstated
Randy LaJoie, racing analyst for NASCAR and ESPN and former driver has been suspended indefinitely for violating its substance-abuse policy. (Marijuana) 2010
William Hileman, crew member in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – 2/25/2010
Kenneth Luna, crew member in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy- 2/24/2010
William Wheeler, a crew member in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy 2/12/2010
Jeremy Mayfield (Driver), Tony Martin and Ben Williams (Crew Members) have been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – 5/9/2009
Aaron Fike, 7/11/2007, Camping World Truck Series – Suspended for life
Kevin Grubb suspended indefinitely, after failing to comply with the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy – 9/12/2006
Kevin Grubb was in violation of 12-4-E (Violation of the NASCAR Substance Abuse Policy) and 12-4-A (Actions detrimental to stock car racing) of the 2004 NASCAR Rule Book – 3/2/2004
Shane Hmiel, three times, last for life, 9/18/2003, 5/2005 and 2/2006, Nationwide Series
Brian Rose, 3/2003, Truck Series [reinstated and attempted the Truck Series race at Nashville, 4/2/2010]
Sammy Potashnick, 2/2002, Nationwide/Truck Series
Competitors are subject to out-of-season testing, preseason testing, random testing and testing for cause. NASCAR takes their drug testing policy very seriously. The Wall Street Journal had rated NASCAR 5th for best drug testing in Sports back in 2009.
Later on Monday, the following statement was released by Penske Racing:
“Penske Racing is continuing to work with NASCAR to follow its process and procedures related to the positive drug test that AJ Allmendinger was notified of this past weekend. While this process continues, Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 22 car in this week’s Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.”
UPDATE: Just saw on Twitter at 9:40 PM that Per NASCAR: Penske Racing and AJ Allmendinger have officially requested the B sample be tested. Allmendinger had the right to request to have the B sample tested, but had not done so, until now. The deadline for the retest was set for tomorrow, Tuesday, July 10th at Noon.
UPDATE 2: According to ESPN, sources speaking on the condition of anonymity confirm that the test was conducted late yesterday at Aegis’ Atlanta headquarters, with Allmendinger, his attorney and a toxicologist of his choosing in attendance to monitor the proceedings. Results are expected to be available within the next 24-48 hours, and Penske said he and his team are “standing behind (Allmendinger) until we understand the results.
Statement from Allmendinger via Walldinger Racing:
“I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the “B” sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR’s 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR’s drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the #22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug.”
Because Allmendinger is bringing his own people, an attorney & a toxicologist, the test of the sample will not occur until next week.
Tara Ragan, business manager for suspended driver AJ Allmendinger, debunked published reports that Walldinger Racing plans to bring an attorney to the testing of Allmendinger’s “B” sample, the next step in the procedure under NASCAR’s substance abuse program. As set forth in NASCAR’s rule book, Allmendinger may attend the “B” sample test at Aegis Sciences Corporation in Nashville, Tenn., or send a qualified toxicologist to represent him.
Ragan’s statement also included the assertion that Allmendinger had never knowingly taken a prohibited substance and indicated he was requesting a test of the “B” sample, which was collected at the same time as the “A” sample. Ragan said she took the passage in Section 19-11 B (2) of the rule book literally: “The NASCAR member may be present (either personally or represented by a qualified toxicologist not associated with Aegis) during the second test at his/her expense . . .” Ragan said Allmendinger has not been informed of a “B” sample test date, next week or otherwise.