26 July 2012
Allmendinger starts 'road to recovery'
Ragan subsequently clarified why her answers varied between interviews: "We weren't being evasive ... In my head, no, we didn't know what the drug was. Amphetamines was too general for us when trying to figure out what it is."
Allmendinger's team still insist that the driver did not knowingly or intentionally take any banned substance, and that they are still trying to work out what could have caused the positive result. Fan speculation has centred on diet and nutritional supplements or sports energy drinks being to blame, but there is no evidence supporting this so far. Allmendinger's team have previously spoken of getting all the driver's supplements tested by an independent laboratory to try and get to the bottom of the source of the problem.
"We look to rule out the possibility of a supplement being involved," said Dr David Black, who will co-ordinate Allmendinger's 'road to recovery' program. "I'm not aware of any commercial products that would have influenced the test outcome."
Since each 'road to recovery' is a bespoke creation for each individual based on their nature, the substances involved, and their response to treatment, there is no definite time span for the program which is why a driver is listed as being on 'indefinite' suspension in the meantime. The process starts with an evaluation by a substance abuse counselor to set up the program for Allmendinger's treatment, which typically also includes a series of further drugs tests.
However, it is not meant to be a quick or easy process, as medical officers have to be convinced that any underlying problems have been addressed and that the individual is not at risk of relapsing. Allmendinger is not expected to be back this season, and given the public relations issues surrounding the test results it's possible that even once he does complete the 'road to recovery' process he might find it difficult to find another top team ride in NASCAR in the near future.
The only other Sprint Cup driver to test positive in a random drugs test was Jeremy Mayfield in 2009. He never signed the letter agreeing to participate in the 'road to recovery' process and instead embarked on a long and increasingly bitter legal dispute with NASCAR over the test results, to no avail. He remains on indefinite suspension, and is currently on police charges for other unrelated matters stemming from a police raid on his residence at the end of 2011.
In the meantime, Sam Hornish Jr. will continue to drive the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Penske Racing Sprint Cup car at the next two races at Indianapolis and Pocono, after which the team will make a longer term decision. Allmendinger was signed to the team for a one-year deal at the start of 2012, to replace Kurt Busch who left at the end of the previous season.
"I think the situation is going to continue to be fluid," said Penske Racing president Tim Cindric. "It's way too early for us to speculate on what A.J.'s future holds with us."
Cindric told SPEED Wednesday that, "I think Roger [Penske] has said all along that his biggest concern is really for more about the individual, than anything else. We as an organisation are certainly very sympathetic to the situation that AJ's going through."
"You never give up hope in terms of AJ's situation," stressed Cindric. "I think the best thing that he can do is to continue to do what he is doing, and work with NASCAR to understand what process and what steps he needs to take to be reinstated in the Cup garage. I think that's where his priority needs to be right now."
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