During Friday's livestream build-up to the AFT Singles Springfield Short Track races, commentator Scottie Deubler explained that Henry Wiles was a no-show for the race, and was also disqualified from the Peoria TT, a race he won in the Singles class. No further explanation was given at the time. We contacted paddock insiders and were told he failed a drugs test, after being tested at the New York Short Track (NY ST), at (ironically?) Weedsport on 14 August. Without official word we sat on the news, as getting anything wrong in such a serious case has wide implications. It wasn't until yesterday's livestream coverage of the Springfield Mile that the commentator expanded to confirm what we'd been told
We're not sure how long it takes for a confirmed sample to be tested, but there was one week between NY ST and Peoria TT.
The same insider had told us Cameron Smith (below) had also failed a test at the NY ST, the race he picked up his first career National win, in Production Twins, and this was later confirmed. Both riders have had the results of the second night at New York/Weedsport and their Peoria results removed from AFT's website standings, with Dalton Gauthier being awarded the Production Twins win for NY ST 2, and Max Whale now listed as the winner of the AFT Singles race at the Peoria TT.
There is no official statement on AFT's website regarding the tests, and we couldn't see anything on their facebook or instagram regarding the story either. The AMA Pro Racing tech logs state that a total of nine riders, three riders in all three AFT classes underwent 'Controlled substance urine analysis' at the NY ST 2 event, and both Wiles and Smith failed. The note states. 'Fail; DQ, suspension, eligible for reinstatement following successful completion of Road to Recovery program.' The tech log doesn't state the substance.
The Turner Racing Honda team, who Wiles (above) raced for, put out this statement: As of Friday September third, Turner Racing has parted ways with Henry Wiles.
Turner Racing will now field a replacement Honda rider for the remaining 2021 American Flat Track season.
At this time, no further comment will be made regarding Henry Wiles and his future endeavors.
Turner Honda Racing will continue to grow our team. Our immediate efforts for 2021 will now focus on our current riders 51 Cole Zabala , 21 Trevor Brunner and the vacant spot on our three rider team.
Thank you to our sponsors for all your support.
AFT's 2021 rulebook is 122 pages in total. The substance abuse and testing section runs to 22 pages of the entire rulebook, so it's not hidden away. And it states:
AMA PRO RACING SUBSTANCE ABUSE POLICY
Through a comprehensive testing program, AMA Pro Racing’s Substance Abuse Policy rules are designed to keep Events safe for everyone and provide a level playing field. Strong testing programs save lives, prevent injury, gives AMA Pro Racing Participants additional reasons to say no to illegal drugs and help identify people with substance abuse issues and facilitate their treatment. To those ends, AMA Pro Racing prohibits the misuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, and any other substance used in a manner that affects safety or impacts the integrity of the competition, including –but not limited to-- illegal or performance enhancing substances. All AMA Pro Racing Participants are responsible for whatever goes into their body. This policy is a supplement to AMA Pro Racing’s Rules for Competition which is binding upon all credentialed Participants in the same manner and to the same extent as AMA Pro Racing Rules for Competition...
...The Policy of this program is governed by AMA Pro Racing, but it is administered and implemented through a program administrator [PA], testing laboratories, medical review officers, and substance abuse professionals.
It goes on to state:
B3.1 PROHIBITED SUBSTANCES
a. For the purpose of this Policy, prohibited substances are those substances that, in the PA’s and the MRO’s determination, in consultation with AMA Pro Racing, may adversely affect the safety and well-being and performance of an AMA Pro Racing Participant at an AMA Pro Racing Event, including without limitation illegal drugs.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
The substances haven't been officially stated, but people commenting on Sideburn's instagram feed assume it's marijuana. We have no idea what the basis of this assumption is. As we discovered from Dalton Gauthier's 2017 ban, when he was leading the AFT Singles championship, the series takes positive drug tests very seriously, whatever the substance is, and demand riders go on a 'Road To Recovery' programme. The rulebook outlines it thus:
B5.4 THE ROAD TO RECOVERY/COMPETITION RE-ENTRY
a. AMA Pro Racing Participants, who violate this Policy, are required to be evaluated and tested before reinstatement to AMA Pro Racing can be considered.
b. In conjunction with the terms and condition of reinstatement of an AMA Pro Racing license, the PA will provide for an evaluation with an appropriate substance abuse professional for the purpose of advising on the creation of the Road to Recovery Plan, which may include substance abuse counseling, treatment or rehabilitation.
c. The PA will determine how many times the AMA Pro Racing Participant will be tested, for how long, and for what substances. d. The PA may also require that collections be under direct observation.
It seems, from what we've read that each case will have its own 'road to recovery', so it's difficult to say how long it will take to complete. We interviewed Gauthier for Sideburn 45, and he explained the forced break made him re-evaluate his life after spending nearly every waking moment racing, or thinking about racing for most of his life. He was 18 at the time of his ban, and spent time away from racing to do regular 18-year-old's things, and didn't focus on completing the program as quickly as perhaps he could. He did make a comeback, on a single for the 2019 season, before joining the Vance and Hines Harley SuperTwins team. Until picking up an injury at the NY ST he was racing the Harley XG750R in Production Twins.
The small sample of fan comments we've seen ranges from 'It's only weed' (as we have clearly stated, we don't know if that's the case yet), to 'They're pro athletes, they need to set an example'. As explained, the rules are not open to interpretation, there is zero tolerance.
We cannot state enough that we don't know what drug was detected, but if it was marijuana/cannabis, it is legal in many US states (and grown in huge quantities by AFT SuperTwins race, Larry Pegram), but the rule is there to discourage riders from competing while under the influence. It's hard for anyone to argue against that. It is the language that talks of 'substance abuse' that puts some fans' backs up, making the series sound out of touch in a country where marijuana is legal in many states, and many fans use it recreationally.
Incidentally, when it comes to alcohol, the rulebook states:
An AMA Pro Racing credentialed Participant is prohibited from consuming any alcohol 12 hours prior to or during any AMA Pro Racing on-track activity or Event.
b. An AMA Pro Racing credentialed Participant with breath, urine, saliva, or blood alcohol level above 20mg per 100ml (.02%) at the time of testing is deemed unfit for racing, participating or officiating in an AMA Pro Racing Event.
We can see no supplementary statements about bans relating to being under the influence of alcohol or further monitoring of riders for alcohol abuse. Riders who are deemed over the blood alcohol limit simply sit out the day's event.
A quick google search points to marijuana leaving traces that are detectable in urine for up to 30 days after use. AMA Pro Racing's tech logs show that riders were tested during, at least, the first two races of the 2021 season, so anyone in the paddock should have been reminded of the risk they were taking by not following the AFT's stringent rules towards all kinds of drugs, whether they are legal, prescription-only or illegal. Any rider taking any kind of prohibited substance at any time from 30 days before the season opener onwards is running a huge risk of failing a test, especially in a paddock where rider numbers are so much lower than in the past, meaning the percentage chance of being tested has increased significantly. Three SuperTwins riders were tested at NY ST 2, and there was only 13 riders entered, that's a 23% of being tested.
Rider photos: Scott Hunter/AmericanFlat Track