NASCAR doesn’t expect many changes in its drug testing program after switching the collection agency and the laboratory that analyzes the samples.
But there apparently is one thing that drivers have noticed in the first couple of weeks: They have to do a little more work.
“I got drug tested the first week and they asked for about twice the sample size, and I just can’t pee that much,” Brad Keselowski quipped.
“That’s about the only difference. They actually want a whole damn Fiji bottle worth.”
Another driver confirmed that was true for him as well, although a NASCAR spokesman said the specimen volume may vary depending on the type of test being administered, so it might not be about switching laboratories.
When NASCAR implemented its drug testing program in 2009, Aegis Sciences Corp., under the direction of Dr. David Black, collected the samples at the track and then tested the samples in its labs.
Aegis was sold in 2014 and Black, the company founder, left in December. NASCAR changed its rulebook two weeks ago to show that it would now use Drug Free Sport as its collection agency, which will send the samples to the Sports Medicine and Research Testing Laboratory for analysis.
Drug Free Sport focuses solely on sports and has the NFL, Minor League Baseball and the PGA among its clients.
John Bobo, a NASCAR lawyer who also oversees NASCAR’s drug testing program, said the move wasn’t done because NASCAR was displeased with Aegis.
“We’re always looking to improve the program and we look forward to working with new partners,” Bobo said.
NASCAR also increased the responsibilities of Dr. Doug Aukerman, who is now the program administrator, instead of Dr. Timothy Robert of Aegis. Aukerman, who is the Oregon State senior associate athletics director for sports medicine, has served and continues to serve as NASCAR’s medical review officer, the person who reviews the results and determines whether there is a legitimate medical explanation for a positive drug test.
NASCAR tests select drivers, crew members and officials each week at the race track. Bobo said none of the procedures have changed. Procedures typically are what drivers challenge when disputing a drug test. How Aegis, Black and Aukerman conducted and evaluated the Jeremy Mayfield tests were central to Mayfield’s dispute of whether his 2009 test should have been considered a positive test.
“It’s a little bit intimidating when you go in to do the drug test only because you go in there and you see him seal it and then you walk away and there’s a lot of trust in these people,” said Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jamie McMurray.
“I had grown fairly comfortable with Aegis because it was somewhat the same people week-in and week-out so over two or three years, you get comfortable seeing them and there’s a trust factor. It will be a little bit unique going back in for the first time and not knowing anybody.”
McMurray said he did not know about the change until it was reported by ESPN. Some of the drivers were aware.
“I think the direction that NASCAR went was having something that was involved in other sports,” said 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick. “The way it was explained to us sounded good.”
The move was done in the middle of the season because January and February are busy times for preseason driver and crew drug testing heading into the Daytona 500 (all teams are required to have tests done for traveling crew members). NASCAR wanted officials from Drug Free Sport to learn more about the NASCAR industry before starting its new role, Bobo said.
“I hadn’t had any issues and I hadn’t heard of any drivers having any issues with how it was run or done before,” said Denny Hamlin, who helped organize the drivers council a few years ago. “As long as we get a level playing field and they do it consistent and the job is well done, I don’t think it matters too much who does it.”
Keselowski isn’t sure if all the testing is necessary, and wonders about the ability to test for certain performance enhancers as well as how much of the testing is for show.
“I’m not super-excited about it either way,” Keselowski said about the change. “I always kind of felt like this sport is somewhat self-policing. If you’re using recreational drugs, you’re probably not going to be very good at this.”