When Sports Idols Fall From Grace

How To Talk To Your Children

AJ Allmendinger
Nascar Driver

On Saturday July 7, 2012 Nascar announced the temporary suspension of A.J. Allmendinger driver of the #22 Dodge for Penske Racing. ‘Dinger as he’s known, failed one of the racing series random drug tests that it administers to Officials, Drivers, Crews and anyone who works on a car driven in any level of Nascar.

In Kentucky officials approached the well liked driver, who immediately complied in the in-field care center. Nascar collects a sample which is immediately divided into two containers, sealed and initialed by the testee. These become the ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples. On Saturday Penske Racing was notified that Dinger’s ‘A’ sample failed.

Nascar has a long list of banned substances, from the mundane to the extreme. Neither Nascar, Penske nor Dinger released the substance that was initially found in the sample. Dinger has until Tuesday to request testing of the second ‘B’ sample.  (Story updates at the bottom of this article.)

According to Nascar’s drug policy stimulants are listed as:

Illegal substances: stimulants (such as methamphetamine, Ecstasy), narcotics (oxycodone, heroin, codeine), ephedrines (pseudoephedrine), benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium), barbiturates, muscle relaxers, sleep aids (Ambien) and beta blockers. Drivers and over-the-wall crewmen also are tested for performance-enhancing drugs such as hGH.

It’s important to note that a lot of the substances listed here are not illegal drugs. Many prescribed medications would fall into this category as well. You can read more about Nascar’s drug policy: Nascar: Get inside tests, methods, punishment by Bob Pockrass

An article out today in SBNation by Nascar writer Jeff Gluck covers the reaction by Heartbroken AJ Allmendinger Fans Wait, Hope For The Best. In the article a fan mentions that he’s not a Dinger fan, but his 8 year old son is.  Then states: “..if his son was a teenager, it would be a good time to have the “Don’t do drugs” talk. But Cody couldn’t comprehend a conversation about drugs and alcohol at his age”. “I guess this is part of parenting: What do you do when your kid’s role models get in trouble?

I have a similar story, but my son was 5 when he latched on to Ryan Newman in the #12 Altel Dodge in December 2008 (Newman won the Daytona 500 the following February). He is still a Newman fan to this day. Which is great for Mom, since Ryan drives for my favorite Tony Stewart.

As a long time fan (4 decades plus), what concerns me most about these situations are the kids. The up and coming fans of a sport I love so much. We are a Nascar family (Dad’s favorite is Dale Jr), we support each others favorite driver intensely. We watch races as a family, we go to the races as a family, heck we even wear our favorite driver t-shirts as a family when we go out to dinner at Outback and ask for our free Bloomin’ Onion for Ryan Newman’s latest finish in a race.

Talking to our kids about their favorite sports hero has its ups and downs. And this situation is no exception. Whither it’s Nascar, NFL, NBA or some other sports league, the athletes become role models and everyone chooses their favorite to follow, cheer for, admire and share news about.

Kids Are Never Too Young!
That’s the first thing for new parents to remember. Kids listen to you a lot more than you think they do and they can understand more than you think they can. But even if you don’t know how to talk to them about drugs and alcohol, don’t let that stop you. They will listen to what they do understand and that’s a start. But you don’t have to go it alone.

So 5 to 8 years old isn’t too young for the talk about illegal drugs. Most school districts, drug abuse clinics, child psychologists and the departments of health in the Federal Government all suggest having talks about drug abuse from preschool forward.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse began a school program in 2007 entitled Drug Facts Chat Day. The next chat day is scheduled for January 31, 2013! But don’t wait for the school or the government to talk to your child.

If you wait for someone else to do it, or wait till they’re a teen, you’ve waited too long. Kids as young as 9 can be pressured into doing drugs. Sadly those statistics aren’t unique or in the extreme. And if you are uncomfortable in talking to your child, they will seek answers elsewhere. You may not approve of the answers they receive or where they go to find those answers. So make time to talk to them, even a 5 minute conversation is a start. And if they’re already older, don’t let that stop you either.

The best thing for parents to do is talk to their kids, about your favorite sports league’s policy on substance abuse. Every league has one and most have a long list of unapproved substances. They can be bland and mundane to the extreme and illicit. Some lists even include certain levels of chemicals that can be found in over the counter allergy medicines.

Too much of anything isn’t good for you. That’s as true with vitamin C as it is with alcohol and especially with illegal drugs. For an 8 year old, you simply say there are drugs people take that do bad things to your body; but some people don’t care about that and take them anyway. Some of those drugs are illegal because the government believes they are very bad for you and can kill you. So people who grow them, turn them into bad drugs, sell them and take them can be arrested, lose their job and even their life. Don’t do drugs and you won’t have to worry about all that and all the bad things they can do to you.

Parents, talk to your child and explain the situation. It’s a good opportunity for the don’t do drugs talk and taking responsibility for your actions talk and not passing judgement until you know all the facts talk. Lots of good things to start discussing, because kids these days are exposed to all of that a lot sooner than we want them to be.

I hope ‘Dingers situation is over turned and the first test turns up to be a false positive. If not, then I’m hoping the substance was something totally bland, like he went out drinking a little too much the night before and it hadn’t worked out of his system when the test was taken. But we’ll have to wait and see.

KidsHealth. org has a great article on Talking to Your Child About Drugs. I recommend it to parents of all ages. It covers how to talk to your kids in different age groups, such as pre-school to 7; 8 to 12 and so on.

Springwolf holds a Doctorate in Divinity and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Spiritual Counseling. She counsels families and women of abuse.

Update 07/11 – Dinger’s business manager announced today that A.J.’s ‘A’ sample tested positive for a stimulant. ‘B’ sample still to be tested. The request to test the second sample was made on Tuesday 07/10.

Update 07/14 – Dinger has gathered his health supplements and other legal stimulants which have been turned over to Nascar’s testing facility. He has requested to have his own toxicologist present at the testing of the ‘B’ sample and that request was granted. The ‘B’ sample will be tested sometime during the week of 07/16. Tara Ragan, vice president of Allmendinger’s Walldinger Racing Inc., said “We will have the opportunity to review all of the scientific data surrounding the test following the “B” sample test, but our understanding is that AJ’s test was slightly above the threshold.” – Read more from SI.com

Update 07/17 – Tara Ragan, AJ Allmendinger’s business manager, released a statement on Tuesday concerning Nascar’s testing of AJ’s ‘B’ sample; stating the date has been set for Tuesday, July 24 at 8 a.m. CDT. The test will be conducted at the Aegis Analytical Laboratories in Nashville. AJ has elected to have his own toxicologist present at the test. You can read more of the statement and Nascar’s press release @ SB Nation / AJ Allmendinger ‘B’ Sample Test Date Set by Jeff Gluck

Update 07/25AJ Allmendinger’s “B” Sample Tests Positive. Nascar suspends the driver indefinitely. Allmendinger issues a statement and fans react. Including this one, so check out our story. 

© This material is the intellectual property of Author Springwolf
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