Shortly after that announcement, Allmendinger’s longtime business manager, Tara Ragan issued a written statement saying, ““This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this. To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ’s home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards."
In subsequent statements to the media, Ragan claimed that NASCAR’s substance abuse testing agent, Aegis Analytical Laboratories, has not informed Allmendinger of the specific compound that triggered his suspension.
NASCAR’s Managing Director of Communication David Higdon flatly denied that claim today, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody that Allmendinger has been informed of the substance in question. “When the Medical Review Officer is informed of a positive test result on the `A’ sample, he speaks directly to the competitor and alerts him to the exact substance,” said Higdon. “The subsequent call to NASCAR is the same; (revealing) the exact substance that he tested positive for. AJ certainly knows that.”
Higdon also disputed Ragan’s claim that the level of banned substance in Allmendinger’s sample was within nanograms of accepted standards, calling it “inaccurate information. It was characterized as just over the threshold,” said Higdon, “but that’s just not the case. It was over the threshold by a significant amount. It’s unfortunate that information has been put out there… and honestly, I don’t think (it) is helping him. I think the best thing for him to do is to get into the program and meet with people who have only one interest; and that is to help him get his life back (and) get his career back on track. That’s all we care about right now… (but) unfortunately there has been some inaccurate information out there.”
Higdon revealed that NASCAR is allowed to reveal the substance publically, but has traditionally elected not to do so.
|NASCAR's David Higdon|
“Our rulebook – through the driver/owner agreement – allows us to announce any of this information,” he said. “We have chosen not to do so, primarily because we are trying to provide the best road back. In most of the cases we’ve had so far, we feel like the privacy (we provide) is best for them. That’s what the substance abuse experts tell us, and if (the competitor) chooses to announce the information themselves, that’s fine. That’s our policy, we feel it has worked (in the past) and we will continue to stick by it.”
Higdon confirmed that the `B’ sample test is more complicated than the initial `A’ test, providing both NASCAR and the competitor with additional specific information on the offending substance.
“(The `B’ test) is not the exact same test,” he said. “It tests only for the category of substances that the `A’ sample test has already identified. The `A’ sample takes longer, because we are testing for a wide range of different substances. The `B’ sample is tested solely for that particular category. That’s why you saw a quicker turnaround on the `B’ sample. But both tests are conducted on the exact same urine sample that was provided… at Kentucky.”
Higdon said NASCAR is not concerned with the degree of the infraction, only that an infraction has occurred.
“The way this testing works is not all that dissimilar from a Breathalyzer,” he said. “Our perspective is that that you’re either positive, or you’re not. We’re not interested in discussing the levels, (but) we are interested in setting the record straight. And when our program gets called into question, we will defend it. We think it is the right program for the sport (and) the right program for our members.”
He also said NASCAR is not interested in debating how a banned substance got into a competitor’s system.
“If you test positive, you test positive. Full stop. That’s the way it works. Ultimately, we need to have a very clear, black-and-white program where we (NASCAR) remove ourselves from the process and allow the program administrators and experts do their jobs.
Higdon said NASCAR’s Road to Recovery is tailor-made for the needs of the individual driver or crewmember.
“It is completely customized for the individual,” he said. “An evaluation will be done by the Program Administrator, evaluating the facts and information about the substance, having an interview with the competitor and determining what is the right path. It is very much customized to determine what makes the most sense to get them back on the path. Each and every one is different, because each individual is different and the substance they test positive for is different.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images