July 15, 2012
By Kim Roberson
Could something that millions of men and women drink every day -- be behind AJ Allmendinger’s positive drug test of last week?
Right now it appears that an energy drink *may*be the cause of the positive drug test that landed AJ out of his car and on the sidelines for a second week running.
Earlier this week AJ's long-time business manager Tara Reagan said that the driver's initial drug screen results might have been above the threshold for a stimulant, and speculation is that that stimulant might have been the result of ingesting an energy beverage before the race at Kentucky two weeks ago.
There are currently more than 100 drugs listed as banned substances that will get a driver suspended for failing a drug test. Often we will hear of a driver battling through pain rather than risking a positive drug test by taking prescription medication for whatever injury is bothering them.
However medications are not the only things that could cause a positive drug test these days. Energy drinks contain all kinds of stimulants and other special supplements that we will he don't know what they are. The same goes for health supplements and sport foods that many drivers and athletes in general will take to improve their overall health and fitness regime.
Regardless of the reason that's triggered the positive drug test results or the end result of the upcoming "B" test, the topic of drug testing has been on many drivers’ minds this weekend in New Hampshire.
This week Carl Edwards, driver of the Roush Fenway No. 99 Ford Fusion, discussed how he monitors what he intakes prior to race weekend while also bouncing a very healthy lifestyle.
“People are imperfect. Tests are imperfect. The people that make different products at these factories… products. One of the first things my trainer told me when he started working with me is, '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 is just a whey protein powder, you have to be careful what you ingest.”
Brad Keselowski, who is Allmendinger’s teammate at Penske Racing, says his choice is total avoidance. “I think it does matter what it was -- because it’s going to be that level of uncertainty that I have over any athlete or driver that performs at these levels and what they are taking and not taking. I want to think if you have made it in the sport this far, you had the knowledge to not do anything that dumb. I’ve gone through the injuries, it is my personal opinion that nothing should be allowed. Nothing. I don't think you should take Flintstone pills. It’s my personal belief. I think if you are a race car driver I think you should have to overcome it. I think it's a bunch of bull s---- that people are allowed to take supplements. I don't think any athletes should be allowed to take that. I don’t think anyone should take that.”
Edwards believes that he and his fellow competitors can do something to take drug testing, and the doubts surrounding the test results, into their own hands.
“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. 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 they could go to and this is my representative and they tested the same time on the same day and had this result. I think 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.'
“I think what NASCAR is doing is very admirable, they are trying to keep our sport as clean as possible. (But) when you walk into the testing area -- I did it last week at Daytona -- you walk in there and there are all these cups sitting there. I don’t know where they have been and who has been messing with them what’s going on. I don’t know where they go. It’s just, I think if there is one more layer we could put on it, it would be a group paid for by the drivers that I think that would be the best thing you could do. You don’t stop testing people, and you don’t want to convict a guy of something he didn’t do.”
Keselowski says even though he doesn’t even take vitamins, he is nervous when his number comes up to pee in the little cup. “I know my own personal code of avoiding it is to take nothing at all. I have never taken drugs in my life. But when I go in that room I am still scared, because you know that if something goes wrong, it is a death sentence to your career. It’s over. And you know it’s in human hands, and by the very nature of it being in human hands there is a chance for error.
“I know the course of history shows that humans make mistakes, even if things are checked, checked and back checked.”
The irony would be huge if it turns out that something as simple as an energy drink triggered this latest positive drug test. NASCAR has had at least six energy drink sponsors across all levels of the sport in recent years, including Red Bull, Monster, Five Hour Energy, Speed, NOS, and Amp Energy. We see Kurt Busch standing next to the No. 51 Toyota chugging Monster, or Ricky Stenhouse Jr next to his No. 6 Ford taking a swig of NOS after races in the Nationwide series. Red Bull was the primary sponsor of two cars up until last year, and Five Hour Energy is on Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota Sprint Cup series car.
If it turns out that AJ Allmendinger is sitting out again this weekend as the result of drinking an energy drink (allegedly), what will that mean for all of those teams relying on sponsorship funds from those same energy drinks? In an era when even the U.S. Army is pulling out of sponsoring major teams in the sport, can we face a situation where, much like cigarettes, major sponsors are forced out of the sport because they *might* trigger positive drug tests in drivers?
Then again, if the stimulants in one of these drinks did trigger the positive result, the question has to be asked, why is this the first time it has happened if so many other drivers have been drinking some of the same types of beverages for the last several years?
Follow Kim on Twitter: @ksrgatorfn
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.