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What next for AJ Allmendinger? NASCAR teams are still wondering just what's up

What next for AJ Allmendinger? NASCAR teams are still wondering just what's up

Brad Keselowski wins New Hampshire's Nationwide race, but the big story remains his teammate, AJ Allmendinger


   By Mike Mulhern

   The latest on the AJ Allmendinger saga:
   Team owner Roger Penske finally weighed in Sunday on the issue. But NASCAR officials still had nothing more to add to their cryptic statement a week ago about Allmendinger having apparently failed a drug test for some unannounced substance.

   (Penske just held an impromptu media session session, and that is up on mikemulhern.net's Daily Briefing.)
   But the Allmendinger story remains the hottest story on the NASCAR tour, especially among crewmen.
   And drugs in sports in general is a major topic at the moment, with Olympic candidates involved, with yet another Lance Armstrong debate underway, and with the frequently drug-marred Tour de France well underway too.

   Working the garage, among Sprint Cup crews Sunday morning, and several points are being raised.

   -- First, some insiders say there is now much more information available about Allmendinger, though it's all off-the-record.

   -- Second, several men here are either backing away from discussing the drug issue in any detail or talking only off the record.

   -- Third, some top crewmen wonder if NASCAR's 'zero-tolerance' policy might be overkill. One says of course ban all hard, serious drugs, but potentially contaminated 'dietary supplements' or supplements with ingredients that could yield false positives for more serious drugs might be an issue to reconsider.
   -- Fourth, one top crew explained in detail how the drug testing deal really works.
   The drug testing company takes one sample of urine and divides that into two jars for testing. The first test of the A sample is a standard, basic test, quick and straightforward; if that quick test shows something odd, then further detailed testing is done, to try to pin down specifics. That detailed testing can take several days.
    The testers will call the driver or crewman in question and ask for any explanations. If a drug prescription is involved, the driver must have his doctor and pharmacy fax copies to the testers. Or maybe it's that a driver has, say, just eaten a poppy-seed muffin: that could yield a false positive for opiates like morphine and codeine for as long as 48 hours afterward; the testers would take that into account as an adequate explanation. If, though, a driver is asked 'have you just smoke marijuana,' and says no, and the tests indicate otherwise, the testers will provide the results to show the lie.
    And the testers, at this point, crews say, still have not notified NASCAR. The sanctioning body is apparently brought into the situation only after the testers are confident they have a very solid case.
    If, crews say, the testers are comfortable with the driver/crewman explanation of the test results, that's where it ends, without NASCAR apparently being called in.
   Otherwise the phone call is made to NASCAR to handle the case.
   Crews here do question why NASCAR apparently wasn't told of the Allmendinger positive until noon Saturday at Daytona.
   The A sample and the B sample are both the same urine, crews says.    

   -- Fifth, some teams are upset with how the AJ Allmendinger story is being played out so big in the media, with some questioning NASCAR's PR on the issue. In both the Jeremy Mayfield case in 2009 and the Allmendinger case now, NASCAR officials waited until less than two hours before the start of the race to announce they'd failed a drug test…a move which ensured maximum publicity.    
   Regardless of how the testing of the B sample goes, crews say, the damage has already been done.
   -- Sixth, inside stories of other drivers who – before the current strict testing rules – tested positive and were quickly and quietly hustled out of the game offer some interesting intrigue here. At least once, crews say, a driver who tested positive in the NASCAR test himself implicated half a dozen other drivers…who were all called on the carpet by officials, and then tested – cleanly – several times the following weeks.
   -- Seventh, these crews are very, very knowledgeable about the entire big-picture drug/supplements testing situation.
   The issue of what is called a 'blood passport' -- raised just within the past 48 hours in the Tour de France, for tour leader and possible winner Bradley Wiggins, to clear up any possible questions about drugs – is well known in the NASCAR garage.
   A blood passport is a detail blood-test report that athletes can be given (say, at the start of the season), to be used as a baseline of their physique, in any questioning about possible drug use.
   In fact when some stock car racing crewmen tested for seemingly 'excessive' testosterone, the defense was that was their 'natural' levels. So NASCAR and its testers checked those testosterone levels every week for the next month. The crewmen proved their case.
   -- Eighth, steroid use is of course a sports-drug issue.
   Crewmen who use nasal steroids or other steroids for bronchial issues are at risk obviously of testing positive for steroids, and some have asked the drug testers about that, being told if there is any issue in a test they will be asked for the prescriptions.

    Tony Stewart not only has his men tested at the start of the season but also conducts random drug tests each month of 8 to 10 people.
    Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart and Ryan Newman, agrees "We need to be a clean sport. The last thing we want to do is tarnish it."
    However he has some reservations about a 'zero-tolerance' rule.
   "I was in GNC the other day, to get some supplements, and the guy said 'If you're going to get tested, you can't take that.' It could give a false positive. In fact about 80 percent of the stuff there could give a false positive," Zipadelli says.
   "I don't know what AJ's deal was. It sounds like it could be something minor that set it off.
    "What I think is if we're drug testing for drugs, we should be drug testing for drugs.
   "There is a lot of stuff out there today….like if you take something for weight-loss….that's not fair, that's life, everybody in the world is doing that. I don't think it affects you (on the track).
   "Stuff like alcohol, casual drugs like recreational drugs like marijuana, absolutely there is no room for that in our sport.
   "But people who take workout stuff…..
   "I know there are steroids and stuff, but I don't think it changes our sport, know what I mean?
   Steve Newmark, president of Jack Roush's racing operation: "Every team does a pretty thorough job of training and educating their drivers. But at the end of the day it's up to the drivers. What the drivers do or don't do depends on whose advice they take. I'm sure Roger has a very thorough fitness and workout process.
   "We're pretty confident. We've got a big staff, so we're pretty confident that situation won't happen with us."
   Still Newmark concedes the issue of dietary supplements may be tricky, "because a lot of the companies that make over-the-counter stuff are making other things too."





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