NASCAR was short on details Saturday when it temporarily suspended AJ Allmendinger for violating its substance abuse policy.
All NASCAR said was that Allmendinger took a drug test the previous week at Kentucky and that the “A” sample was positive.
It didn’t indicate the drug in question, nor did it give any timetable for Allmendinger’s return. Allmendinger drives for Penske Racing.
A driver suspension is rare for the Sprint Cup Series, and this one brought into the spotlight a testing policy that remains a mystery to many.
So what is NASCAR’s substance abuse policy?
NASCAR began random drug testing of drivers and team members in 2009. Before then, NASCAR tested based on reasonable suspicion. It still can test for reasonable suspicion.
Its policy and details of procedures were updated in 2010 after Jeremy Mayfield challenged the results and procedures of his 2009 test that NASCAR said was positive for methamphetamines. Mayfield, who said it was a false positive, temporarily won an injunction against NASCAR but his suspension was soon reinstated. Mayfield is the only Cup driver suspended under the random testing policy.
Who & when
Subjected to drug testing are NASCAR officials, drivers, mechanics, engineers, tire specialists, engine tuners, fabricators, shock specialists, chassis specialists, crew chiefs, car chiefs, spotters, tire changers, tire carriers, jack men and gas men.
NASCAR tests the drivers in the preseason, and teams can send the others to an approved lab for a preseason test. At the track, the tests are done randomly, with a computer selecting the subjects.
Since NASCAR’s drug-testing plan went into effect in 2009, at least 30 crewmen from all series have been in violation. Two other drivers, both in the truck series, have been found in violation of the policy.
As to the number of weekly tests are administered, NASCAR officials remain mum. However, it appears five drivers, 10 crew members and five officials from each series are culled. Those numbers appeared in an Aegis document in Mayfield’s 2009 lawsuit.
There are more than 100 drugs that violate NASCAR rules, and NASCAR also emphasizes that its list is not all-inclusive.
“Any substance or combination of substances used in an unsafe manner is a violation,” the rulebook states. “For example, a combination of drinking 10 cups of espresso, taking cold medicine and using prescribed sleep medication will cause a safety risk, although each substance in small amounts by themselves may not necessarily result in a violation.”
In its listings, NASCAR breaks down drugs into various categories.
• Illegal substances: stimulants (such as methamphetamine, Ecstasy), narcotics (oxycodone, heroin, codeine), ephedrines (pseudoephedrine), benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium), barbiturates, muscle relaxers, sleep aids (Ambien) and beta blockers. Drivers and over-the-wall crewmen also are tested for performance-enhancing drugs such as hGH.
• Prescription drugs: Prescriptions can’t be used in a manner inconsistent with the instructions of a doctor or those that impair ability to perform on the day of the event. Drivers must tell NASCAR before using the drug.
• Alcohol: Drivers are to refrain from consuming alcohol 12 hours before on-track activity. A blood-alcohol content of 0.02 is considered unfit to drive.
• Dietary supplements, masking agents and substances that mimic effects of banned substances.
The test itself
NASCAR hired Aegis Sciences Corporation to conduct its testing at the track. A driver must take the test within one hour of being notified. It is up to the Aegis representative if the driver must be watched while taking the test or can go into a stall to urinate. The temperature of the specimen is measured, and then the specimen is split an A and a B sample. The driver is given a form to list all medications.
What happens if positive?
If the test comes back positive, it is then handled by NASCAR’s medical review officer, Dr. Douglas Ackerman.
If Ackerman is concerned about the safety and integrity of the race, he can notify NASCAR before verification of the results and then NASCAR can take immediate action.
“Upon notification of the original A specimen positive test, NASCAR, in its sole discretion, may temporarily suspend a NASCAR Member’s license before the B sample test is completed based on … concerns regarding the safety of the NASCAR members and others at the event (or) concerns regarding the fairness of a competition (or) exigent circumstances,” the rulebook states.
Those were the guidelines NASCAR used to suspend Allmendinger on Saturday on short notice. Considering the time it takes for the samples to get to the lab and the couple days to run the tests on a regular laboratory schedule — as well as there the July 4 holiday before Saturday’s Daytona race — it is not rare for a week to pass before the initial results are determined.
The process that then began Saturday for Allmendinger:
• A driver has 72 hours from the time of notification to give proof of prescription drugs.
• A driver has 72 hours to ask for his B sample to be tested. Aegis will test the B sample, and the driver can watch the test being conducted. A driver also can have a qualified toxicologist not affiliated with Aegis watch the test.
• If the B sample is negative, the driver is not considered in violation of the rules.
• If the B sample is positive, a driver will be indefinitely suspended or receive “other disciplinary action deemed appropriate under the circumstances.”
Once a driver violates the policy, the driver must agree to NASCAR’s terms and conditions to get reinstated. The driver will be evaluated by a substance abuse professional, who will create a recovery plan “that may include substance abuse counseling, treatment or rehabilitation.” The program administrator will determine how many times the driver will be tested, or how long and for what substances.
Although NASCAR typically does not announce the drug in a driver’s positive test, its policy allows for that disclosure.
“By seeking to participate in any NASCAR Event, all NASCAR Members agree that NASCAR may publish the results of any test or tests conducted pursuant to this Policy and the circumstances giving rise to such test or tests to such third parties as NASCAR, in its sole discretion, deems reasonable under the circumstances,” NASCAR’s rulebook states.
Via The Sporting News By Bob Pockrass