AJ Allmendinger and NASCAR’s Drug Testing Policy

By:  John Fabiano, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @Fabs 5180)

July 24th is a big day for AJ Allmendinger.  The driver of Penske Racing’s #22 car recently tested positive for one of NASCAR’s banned substances and has been suspended indefinitely.   Two samples, A and B, are taken when NASCAR members are drug tested.  Allmendinger’s A sample tested positive for a banned substance but he will get a second chance when his B sample is tested this Tuesday.

NASCAR changed the structure of its drug testing policy in 2009 when it started randomly testing drivers and just about every team member than plays a role on race days, including team officials, crew chiefs, tire changers, and jack men.  The members tested are randomly selected by a computer system, where in the past the tests were only administered due to reasonable suspicion.  There are over 100 substances that violate NASCAR’s substance abuse policy, and Allmendinger tested positive for at least one of them. 

The most mysterious aspect of the whole testing policy is that if NASCAR may, as it did in Allmendinger’s case, choose not to release which substance a violating member tests positive for.  There was a great debate concerning this standard of confidentiality when Jeremy Mayfield, the only other driver to be suspended since the inception of the random drug testing policy, tested positive for a banned substance.  It was not resolved until court documents revealed that he tested positive for methamphetamines.  Only the banned substance list, which includes illegal substances, prescription drugs, alcohol, and dietary supplements, is made available to the public.

After testing positive for an illegal substance, the next 72 hours are crucial.  In this time frame, one option the violator has is to present evidence to NASCAR officials that they were taking prescription drugs in accordance with their doctor’s orders.  Another option is to request that the B sample be tested, which is what Allmendinger did.  During the testing of the B sample, Allmendinger will exercise his option to have an independent toxicologist chosen by him watch the test.  If the B sample comes back negative, Allmendinger will be immediately reinstated.  A positive test will lead to an indefinite suspension and could require a treatment plan that includes substance abuse counseling, treatment, or rehabilitation.

A lot of NASCAR drivers have been outspoken about the drug test policy since Allmendinger’s positive test went public.  His Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski doesn’t agree with NASCAR’s decision to keep the substance Allmendinger tested positive for a secret.  He states that there is a big difference between a driver taking a stimulant, which may have come from a legal supplement, and an illegal, recreational or performance-enhancing drug.  He went on to say, “It’s my belief that nothing should be allowed, I don’t think you should take Flintstone pills.”  While Keselowski’s ideal restrictions may be over the top, most drivers do agree with a strict drug testing policy.  Matt Kenseth agreed that a stern drug test policy will keep drivers in check while participating in a sport where the potential for fatal accidents is always present.  Kenseth said, “When you’re racing at 200 mph, you want everybody to be right.”

Drivers do not want to put themselves in a situation where they are competing against drivers that are unnecessarily putting their careers in jeopardy.  Tuesday’s test could make or break AJ Allmendinger’s career and reputation.

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