Carl Edwards proposes 'own' testers
LOUDON, N.H. -- While several drivers expressed confidence that NASCAR has the proper drug-testing program in place, Carl Edwards suggested Friday that drivers hire their own company to perform tests in conjunction with those taken by the one employed by the sport.
Edwards, speaking from the site of this weekend's Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, made the comments in reaction to AJ Allmendinger's suspension for a failed drug test. Allmendinger was pulled from last Saturday's Cup race at Daytona International Speedway a few hours before it began.
"I think the drivers need to get together and we need to have our own group that is paid by us, that works for us, to be here in tandem with the NASCAR drug testers and have them test us at the same time so that we have not just an 'A' and 'B' sample,'' Edwards said between practices at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
I think the drivers need to get together and we need to have our own group that is paid by us, that works for us, to be here in tandem with the NASCAR drug testers and have them test us at the same time so that we have not just an 'A' and 'B' sample.” -- Carl Edwards between practices at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
"I don't think it would be a contentious thing. That would remove almost all doubt in any situation of a positive test. ... Until we do that, no matter what is found to be positive, no matter what the test results are, there is always going to be that little question of 'maybe there was a mistake.' "
Brad Keselowski, Allmendinger's teammate, disagreed.
"I'm certainly not supportive of Carl's idea,'' he said. "I don't think there's a place for that. I don't think we need more politics in the sport, and that's what groups like that bring in.''
Keselowski's solution is not to allow any drug or supplement in the sport -- period.
"My own personal code of avoiding it is to take nothing at all,'' he said. "I can still tell you when you go in that room to have a drug test -- and I've never taken drugs in my life -- and I'm still scared sh------ of it, because you know if something goes wrong, it's a death sentence for your career.''
That's what Keselowski fears for Allmendinger.
"Whether it comes back positive or negative, it doesn't make a difference; it's still a death sentence,'' he said of the 'B' sample. "Within the sport we rely on sponsors and reputation. It seems like those headlines for corrections section in the newspaper is in much smaller print.''
Allmendinger's fate will be determined next week when Aegis Sciences Corporation of Nashville, Tenn., which ruled the Penske Racing driver failed a test on his 'A' urine sample at Kentucky, tests the 'B' sample. Allmendinger plans to have his toxicologist present when that is done. Sam Hornish Jr. will be in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge for Allmendinger again at New Hampshire.
If the 'B' sample that is split from the original sample supports the original test, then Allmendinger must go through NASCAR's recovery program, which typically takes about five months, meaning his season -- and potentially his career -- is done. If the sample comes back negative, Allmendinger will be re-instated.
Edwards' concern is the 'B' sample will be tested by the same company that tested the original. That also was the concern of Jeremy Mayfield and his attorneys when the driver was suspended in 2009 after testing positive for methamphetamines.
Mayfield and his attorneys argued that many businesses use different labs for testing 'A' and 'B' samples. The court did not support the argument as a reason to dismiss Mayfield's positive test.
While most chose to reserve judgment on Allmendinger until results of his 'B' sample urine test are obtained, they are confident in the testing process the sport utilizes.
"They did a lot of things when they put that system in place to make it as fair as they can, and I really believe that NASCAR is gonna err on the side of caution," points leader Matt Kenseth said Friday. "I think they're gonna be pretty darn careful before they do something that could really jeopardize somebody's career, so I'd have a hard time believing that it's not pretty rock solid, or I don't think NASCAR would have reacted like that."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., second in points, agreed.
"That's what I tell myself to make myself not as nervous about it," NASCAR's most popular driver said. "Anytime somebody gets in trouble, regardless of what it is, when you don't know the true identity of the crime or don't have a real understanding of the chain of events, everybody is curious and nervous.
"I'm certain as big and structured of an organization as NASCAR is and the agency they have that works with them on their drug program, they can't make any mistakes. They can't afford to make any mistakes. ... I have to believe they are making the right calls and right choices, and there's a reason to make the call they did."
Allmendinger claims he didn't "knowingly" take a banned substance. Through his business manager, Tara Ragan, he said the positive test was for a stimulant but did not identify it.
A stimulant is defined in NASCAR's drug policy as "amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy (MDMA), Eve (MDEA), MDA, PMA, Phentermine, and other amphetamine derivatives and related compounds."
But questions still linger in the minds of Allmendinger's peers.
"Even though you don't get what you want in terms of details, you have to believe the program is true and it's definitely a good thing to have," Earnhardt said. "You just have to believe they're doing what's right and not making any mistakes. They can't afford to."
Kevin Harvick is a strong proponent of NASCAR's testing program that was strengthened after the suspension of Mayfield. His biggest question was the timing of pulling Allmendinger less than three hours before the race.
"Seemed an odd situation right before the race," Harvick said. "As we go through next few weeks, and a B test, I want to wait and see all the facts and see where everything is at. The timing did seem unique for the team and everyone to react. But obviously that's all handled from an outside company.
"Hopefully, something that can be explained to everybody so we know if it's something out of bounds or over the counter. We'll wait and see all the facts as they come out."
Kenseth didn't question the timing.
"It's hard to comment on taking him out right before the race because I don't know what it was," he said of the stimulant in question. "Obviously, when you're out there racing at 200 mph, you want everybody to be right.
"That's what the program is for, so if there was something wrong, you don't want to be out there with somebody if there's something wrong with them."
Many drivers who take supplements say Allmendinger's suspension makes them more cautious. Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said he double-checks with Dr. David Black, who runs the Aegis Sciences Corporation in Nashville, Tenn., that tests for NASCAR, personally when he starts taking something new.
Johnson said he didn't realize Allmendinger's test took a week to get back, thus the timing of his suspension.
"I guess when you're not in question you go about your day and don't pay attention," he said. "But we're all paying attention now."