Trusting The Plan: Carl Edwards Calls For Protection For Drivers With NASCAR Drug Testing

LOUDON, N.H. – On Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson talked about taking part in a triathlon earlier this week.

AJ Allemdinger (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It’s no secret around NASCAR that Johnson is one of the drivers that resides in ultra-health conscious sect of the garage.

When it comes to taking supplements as part of his training regimen, Johnson said he is conscious of making sure to report all that he takes to assure no issues for himself when it comes to NASCAR’s strict drug testing policies.

“It’s just stuff you buy at GNC anyway, so I don’t think there’s a ton of concern,” Johnson said.

But should there be concern?

That’s a question Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth was asking at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The hot topic Friday for Sprint Cup Series drivers at NHMS was the news of A.J. Allmendinger’s suspension from NASCAR by the sanctioning body just hours before last Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR has not revealed what Allmendinger tested positive for, though a representative for Allmendinger said this week that the Penske Racing driver’s failed test was due to a stimulant.

“He has no idea why the first test was positive, and he has never knowingly taken any prohibited substance,” Tara Ragan, vice president of Allmendinger’s Walldinger Racing Inc said. “AJ is collecting his medicines and supplements for testing to determine whether an over-the-counter product caused his positive test.”
Prior to 2009 NASCAR had no standard random drug testing policy. Testing was based on suspicion. Before the 2009 season NASCAR introduced its first standard drug testing policy for drivers and crew members in the sanctioning three national series’ overseen by the sanctioning body.

NASCAR tests all Sprint Cup Series drivers before the start of the season and then drivers are subject to random testing throughout the season. Testing is overseen by Aegis Sciences Corporation.

Allmendinger is only the second Sprint Cup Series driver suspended since comprehensive testing began in 2009. Jeremy Mayfield was suspended indefinitely in 2009 and never returned to the sport for testing positive for methamphetamine use.

Like Johnson, Edwards is one of NASCAR’s well known health conscious drivers. But Friday Edwards was calling for another layer of protection and oversight for drivers subjected to NASCAR testing program.

“I think we’re all kind of in a position where, let’s be honest, it’s an imperfect world,” Edwards said. “People are imperfect. Tests are imperfect. The people who make different products sometimes use factories – one of the first things my trainer told me when he started working with me is he said, ‘Be careful. Anything you ingest is made somewhere and you don’t know what that factory was making the day before it made the product you’re using.’ Even if it’s just like a weight protein powder or something like that, you have to watch what you ingest.

“My point is that I think until the drivers, this is just my theory, 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, but an A and B testing facility, and we can all agree on that facility, it’s no big deal. I don’t think it would be a contentious thing, I think that would remove almost all doubt in any situation of a positive test. If a driver had someone that they could go to and say, ‘Hey look, this is my representative. They tested at the same time on the same day and we have this result.’ If the results are the same, obviously I think we’d all agree that it was a positive, and if they’re different, I think it would give a different perspective. But I think until we do that, no matter what is found to be positive, no matter what the test results are, there is always gonna be that little question of, ‘Maybe there was a mistake.’”

Edwards pointed to his own testing process last week at Daytona as an example of issues he sees that could lead to horrendous situations for a driver having their career ended or forever tainted by a mistake in testing.

“They’re trying to keep our sport as clean as possible, trying to do it the best way, but, boy, when you look at a sport as complex as ours – when you start dealing with chemistry and the chain of possession – when you walk into the testing area, I did it last week in Daytona, you walk in there and there are all these cups sitting there. I don’t know where they’ve been, who has been in there, who has messed with them, what’s going on,” Edwards said. I don’t know where they go after that.

“I think if there’s one more layer that we could put on it, and, in my opinion, it would be a group that is paid for by the drivers, I think that would be the best thing you could do. I think you don’t stop testing people and it’s just like our judicial system, you don’t want to convict a guy of something he didn’t do. I think that’s about as bad as it could be, so I think it’s a tough subject.”

Edwards’ teammate at Roush Fenway Racing echoed his sentiments about questions.

“I think the drug testing policy is a great thing,” Kenseth said. “I think there’s always a fear of the unknown. You don’t really know what’s going on with someone else and you take that test, and I know I’ve never in my life done an illegal drug and I don’t use any supplements. I don’t do any of that stuff. I know a lot of people do a lot of different workout stuff, I just don’t take any of that stuff. I just eat stuff that you guys can all buy in the supermarket, so I don’t worry about it that way. But there is a fear of the unknown.

“You take a test and they ship the stuff away and you hope not to hear about anything later. I think you always wonder and you’re never really sure until it all comes out.”

Edwards fears the repercussions of mistakes in the testing process.

“I trust that NASCAR is doing the very best they can,” Edwards said. “I trust that the Aegis group is doing the best they can, but I do think that what I know about AJ’s situation right now, I think that spurs all of us to think about what you’re asking. Do we have a plan in place? God forbid there was some mistake or something happened. I don’t have a plan in place. I don’t know what I’d do other than throw my hands up and say, ‘I swear.’ That really probably doesn’t do much for you, so I guess it would be prudent for us to come up with a plan.”

The Sprint Cup Series’ most popular driver, Dale Earnardt Jr. who has never professed to be any sort of hardcore student of the health conscious scene, isn’t worried about the testing procedure.

“I’m certain that as big and structured an organization as NASCAR is and the agency they have that works with them on their drug program, they can’t make any mistakes,” Earnhardt said. “They can’t afford to make any mistakes. I assume, although I don’t have any answers or don’t know anything about this particular incident. I have to believe that they are making the right calls and the right choices and there is a reason to make the call they made. Even though you don’t get what you want in terms of details you have to believe that the program is true and it’s definitely a good thing to have. You just have to believe in it that they are doing what’s right and they aren’t making any mistakes.”

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