The Frontstretch: Mayfield Hearing Delayed: And The Whole Mess Could Have Been Avoided by Tommy Thompson -- Thursday June 4, 2009

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It has been almost a month since the suspension of Sprint Cup owner/driver Jeremy Mayfield and the matter is no closer to resolution. Wednesday’s scheduled hearing before a North Carolina Superior Court Judge in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, was cancelled due to an 11th hour move on the part of NASCAR to have the case heard in a federal court. Mayfield and his attorney, Bill Diehl were attempting to gain a temporary restraining order from Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges that would have lifted NASCAR’s suspension of Mayfield on May 9th for allegedly violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. If successful, Mayfield would have been allowed to attempt to qualify for Sunday’s Pocono 500 and following events until the matter is settled in court.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston offered the following in way of explaining the request for a change in venue, “Administration of NASCAR’s substance abuse policy extends to every state in which it races, which is why the logical forum is federal court.”

The ball is now in Mayfield’s court as to whether to fight the change or wait for a court date to be scheduled at the federal level. Either way, Mayfield will not have his day in court as soon as he had wished.

In the mean time, the sordid affair will continue to gain headlines and attention in what will become a permanent black eye for both NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield. It’s a fiasco that would have never occurred except for NASCAR’s unwillingness to stick to the heretofore sensible and considerably more practical “reasonable suspicion/just cause” substance abuse policy that it jettisoned last season, a policy that required drivers and team members to submit to testing if they exhibited suspicious behavior or the organization had information that an individual may be using a banned substance.

An 11th hour move by NASCAR has delayed the substance abuse hearing for Jeremy Mayfield, keeping him and his No. 41 team off the track.

Instead, following an ESPN interview in April of 2008 by former Craftsman Truck and Busch Series driver Aaron Fike in which he said he had used heroin on race day, NASCAR began transitioning to a random drug testing policy that was fully implemented by this season’s opener, the Daytona 500. The Fike incident brought to a crescendo the criticism by many, both outside and within the sport, that NASCAR’s drug screening policy was too lax and too lenient. Faced with the mounting negative PR nightmare, NASCAR opted to take what seemed at the time to be the easy way out and implement its new screening procedures.

Here is the crux of the matter as it pertains to the Jeremy Mayfield saga (and if it isn’t a saga yet – it will be before it’s done!) – had it not been for the newly implemented drug screening policy, there would have been no pending court case. Under the old policy Mayfield would have not been tested because there was no justifiable reason for him to be tested. There is no one stepping forward suggesting that he seemed impaired in anyway that would have prevented him from competing at Darlington (where the test samples were obtained.) NASCAR did not receive a tip that Mayfield may be under the influence of any substance or was a user. Mayfield would still be struggling to make races and NASCAR would have gone about its business trying to revitalize the sport.

In April of 2008, this column addressed the random drug testing premise in an article titled Random Drug Testing: Harvick, Earnhardt, Stewart and Granny, Form A Line Over Here! in which the following position on the topic was expressed: “Random drug testing is to some — myself included — an undignified and insulting process that is highly resented. That a person functioning not only adequately, but in many cases exceptionally both on the job and socially should have to prove to anyone that they are not substance abusers is by its very nature the antithesis of being a free person in a free country.”

Whether Jeremy Mayfield had used unprescribed drugs or not is still an open question. He is adamantly denying any such use and as a result of the drug screening has been compelled to divulge what should be private medical information to explain his test results. Mayfield contends that a mixture of a allergy medication and a prescribed drug for a medical condition that the world now knows is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is the reason for the failed test results.

Judging from the extent to which Mayfield is willing to take the issue of his suspension, it may very possibly turn out that he is being completely honest. The prescribed drug in question (Adderall) does test positive as an amphetimine in drug screens. So, should Mayfield eventually be exonerated and reinstated he’ll now be known forevermore as the driver that takes drugs because he has ADD, most probably a private medical condition that he had preferred to not share with the public…or NASCAR.

What’s the big deal if he has ADD? First of all, it doesn’t need to be a big deal for a person to want to keep it, or any other personal imformation private. However, it is certainly not information that will be a positive for his career as a driver or attract sponsors as a team owner. He now forevermore has the stigma of a guy that requires medication to focus normally. It could be the “deal breaker” when competing for a driver’s position on a race team or asking sponsors to entrust him with millions of dollars of their money to field a team. Yes…business men need focus as well.

There is little risk of drivers being injured or killed on the track in today’s NASCAR due to drug or alchol abuse. Certainly not as great a danger as the average person traversing the highways or bi-ways in this country faces everyday due to a great number of individuals that routinely drive under the influence of illegal and prescribed drugs, as well as alcohol.

As stated in the aforementioned April 2008 article, “Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in this country; that is not news. But I would bet my bottom dollar that is not the case in NASCAR, after these admissions [Fike].There are just too many obstacles in the way of a driver to compete at the high level required of them; not just behind the wheel, but off-track as well. NASCAR drivers are under more scrutiny than perhaps any other athlete, and are not only required to maintain their finely tuned reflexes in the seat of the race car, but be able to function lucidly and appropriately for their many sponsor and media events. Clearly, that does not foster an environment conducive to hiding a drug or alcohol problems for long.”

Make no mistake about it, NASCAR knew that it did not have a serious drug problem on the track. They held out as long as they could and defended what was a reasonable substance abuse screening process, one unnecessarily intrusive, but effective when needed. However, in the end they gave in to public pressure.

Now, they have a mess on their hands. NASCAR is being crucified for the administration of the new policy and their reluctance to provide a list of banned substances. Others are aghast at the organization allowing Mayfield to take part in practice at Richmond while awaiting a second batch of samples. All this while wrestling with the possibility that they may have at least one driver that uses illegal drugs and the fear of not knowing how far-reaching the problem may be.

The legal maneuvering that has delayed Jeremy Mayfield getting his day in court may, or may not ultimately work to NASCAR’s advantage. But the can of worms has been opened and Jeremy Mayfield will not be the last one to crawl out of it.

And…that’s my view from Turn 5

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Johnboy60
06/04/2009 07:05 AM
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(quote)That a person functioning not only adequately, but in many cases exceptionally both on the job and socially should have to prove to anyone that they are not substance abusers is by its very nature the antithesis of being a free person in a free country.” Sir, unless you walk around this country with your head in the sand, I think you should know that this is no longer a free country! The example you cited above is just the tip of the iceberg. Drug testing for a job, having lost most free speech rights, the list goes on and on……….

Chris
06/04/2009 07:11 AM
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Very good article!!! NASCAR did fold under public opinion regarding this issue. I believe the Fike deal is an isolated incident. Back in the day when you had Dick Beaty and Gary Nelson as Cup Director monitoring the competition and these Teams would push the gray area not all was caught via Tech inspection. Other Teams would see or suspect the “Cheating” and would report it. This garage area watch’s each other to make sure no one else is getting an edge. They are the most competitive individuals in sports. You have the Jeff Burton’s out there that are as concerned with safety as they are winning. So to tell me the previous policy was not good enough I do not accept. Shane Hmiel was caught, given a chance, failed again and now permanently banned. Fike is gone. NASCAR has sent the message in the past regarding drug use. What they have done now is what you reported, created an environment that if you want to challenge them you have to reveal personal and private medical information. How sad Political agenda’s seep into racing….

Bill B
06/04/2009 07:25 AM
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No matter what happens in court, I believe Mayfield’s career is over. It’s hard enough to find sponsors without negative publicity.
As for NASCAR’s drug policy, the lesson is to be careful what you ask for with NASCAR. They always have a way of warping any policy or rule so that you get something different from what you envisioned when you asked for it.

Douglas
06/04/2009 07:44 AM
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Great article, and due to the recent actions on not only this matter, but the Carl Long matter, I am now in a letter writing campaign to ALL NA$CRAP sponsors stating I will no longer be buying their products due to their affiliation with NA$CRAP!

INCLUDING cancelling my ALLSTATE INSURANCE policies on my SIX (6) vehicles, 3 motorcycles, 3 cars/trucks, along with a letter to ALLSTATE explaining why I have taken this action.

If we could get a few more to do the same, ALLSTATE will listen!

As will all the other sponsors of this circus!

Please, please, Please! Send your letters out to those that sponsor this crap and let them know how dissatisfied you are with NA$CRAP!

This is the ONLY way NA$CRAP will get the message!

Please?

marshall
06/04/2009 09:55 AM
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Nascar didn’t cave to public pressure on drug testing . Instead , Nascar did what it always does . Nascar developed one of their typical knee jerk responses to a perceived problem . And , as Nascar is woefully undermanaged , the knee jerk drug policy was over the top and destined to end up in court .
Mayfields’ career in Nascar is effectivly over ( Nascar is very vindictive , his every move would be watched , any slight transgression pounced on … you don’t take Nascar to court and get away with it .) and his chances of finding a sponsor big enough for any other major racing series is out the window .
And of course theres the issue of the 1st year medical students that Nascar calls its doctors . I think the very testing itself should and will come under fire as being sloppy and probably even incorrect .

dawg
06/04/2009 10:23 AM
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If,& that’s a very BIG if. Jeremy were able to get an injunction, to allow him to race, pending resolution. Quite frankly, I’m as biased toward Jeremy as anyone you’re gonna find. Having said that, if I were a judge. I would not overturn this without way better proof that has been publicly stated. I would think a controlled test with the substances he says triggered the positive. If it could duplicate the results would do it. Let’s just say for the sake of argument, they either get an injunction, or win the suit. Who thinks Jeremy could ever get a car through tech? This is a very vindictive bunch. Win, lose, or draw. Jeremy is done in NA$CAR.

RVD420
06/04/2009 10:57 AM
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Mayfield is done.

Even if he wins his case, and gets back on the track.

The first time he opens his mouth Nascar will ban him for 12-1 (action detrimental to stock car racing)

AAA
06/04/2009 12:12 PM
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I think Jeremy should ride this out, retire, and then write a tell-all book that exposes the hypocrisy in NASCAR. He’ll make $millions!

Mandy
06/04/2009 01:33 PM
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I would love to hear their logic for calling out a driver for taking medication that is NECESSARY for him to be able to concentrate. Whatever the outcome, NASCAR will regret this. We all know that Mayfield is awfully vindictive himself, and I don’t think anyone would blame him if he were to become NASCAR’s Jose Canseco.

Casey B
06/04/2009 03:07 PM
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Great article as always Tommy, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, I just wish we could hit the fast-forward button on the whole situation.
And to the bandit who pees in Douglas’ cheerios EVERY morning, please quit.

Richard in N.C.
06/04/2009 06:31 PM
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The reasons NASCAR adopted a new drug testing policy were that Fink showed you cannot always recognize who is using drugs and the all-knowing media, as usual, kept beating up NASCAR. The Mayfield situation is yet another example of the biased and sloppy reporting by much of the NASCAR media.It was not until this week that I saw an article on a wide-distribution site (espn.com) where the author bothered to compare NASCAR’s drug testing program to that of another major sport, the NFL, and found that NASCAR’s compares favorably with that of the NFL and with WADA guidelines. Much of the NASCAR media is more interested in bashing NASCAR and a story that will attract readers than whether the story is based on facts.

Douglas
06/04/2009 06:57 PM
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Hey Casey B!

Actually it’s CORN flakes I eat! Not cheerios.

Because anything to do with that illustrious group called NA$CRAP is pure CORN!

And for the record it is King Brian that is “peeing” on our fun and excitement!

And for Richard in NC,
I think all organizations need some sort of drug testing, in this day and age who knows whose taking what?

BUT, the way the Mayfield thing came down i.e. NOTHING IN WRITING!
And no apparent dialogue with Jeremy by NA$CRAP prior to going absolute public with the suspension, leaves one with a sour taste in their mouth! At least it does me!

PLUS the fact NOBODY, but NOBODY, trusts NA$CRAP, leaves this whole drug testing thing up in the air!

Fair?

Not Fair?

Who knows, we only hear what NA$CRAP wants us to hear! And that ain’t much my friend!

Sure, on the surface the drug testing program is similar to other sports, but is it totally above board when the results come in?

Me suspects not!

Richard in N.C.
06/04/2009 07:18 PM
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The NASCAR drug testing program is in writing and, according to David Newton, compares favorably with the NFL’s. In his complaint, Mayfield’s attorney says that Mayfield was told on May 7th by the medical reviewer what he tested positive for – but a week later Mayfield told the press at LMS that he had not been told what he tested positive for. My real beef is with the media, who increasingly seems more interested in the story than the truth – or maybe they’re still trying to get back at NASCAR for the way the run-in between Tony Stewart and Mulhern was handled years ago.

marshall
06/04/2009 07:35 PM
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Richard in N.C. , let me see if i get this straight . You think the “ Nascar “ media is trying to portray this as mean old incompetent Nascar is out to get this driver . And you feel that Nascars’ drug policy is being unfairly malinged since it is world class , just like the NFLs . And then you tell us the punchline , you’ve based all of this on the writings of David Newton ??? Might i point out , hes’ a ranking member of the “ Nascar “ media himself and certainly no expert on drug test policies .
I’ll hazard a guess here , you wouldn’t just happen to work for Nascar or Aegis would you .

Richard in N.C.
06/04/2009 08:25 PM
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No, I feel the NASCAR drug testing policy has been unfairly reported because the only writer I have found who has made an effort to compare the NASCAR program to that of any other major racing series or sport is Newton and the results of his reporting is contrary to that of most of the other reporting of the NASCAR program – and I’ve read the NASCAR program and Mayfield’s complaint. I’m no expert on drug testing policies, and I’m sure Newton isn’t either, but it seems only reasonable to me to compare NASCAR’s to that of other major sports, but I would have preferred a comparison to the testing program of another racing series. Also, Newton’s article says he interviewed the head of a drug testing lab in Charlotte. No I am not involved in any way with NASCAR or Aegis except for being a fan of NASCAR racing.

matt
06/04/2009 11:28 PM
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I have to side with Jeremy on this one. I think that any doctor in their right mind wouldn’t perscribe a NASCAR driver a drug that would inhibit them from driving. I think NASCAR doesn’t like Jeremy, and they are looking for any excuse to keep him from doing something he loves. Wasn’t it just a year or two ago that NASCAR was pleading with teams to show up, qualify, then park just to get full fields? Now that they have more cars attempting to qualify than starting positions, I think they are going to try and find any reason to park anyone who isn’t jeff gordon or dale earnhardt junior.

I guess we can just chalk this whole thing up to bad judgement on NASCARs’ part.

Marc
06/05/2009 12:27 AM
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Nobody has even mentioned the Ritalin Kid himself, Mr. Carl Edwards. Mr Hyper.

Richard in N.C.
06/05/2009 12:31 AM
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I don’t believe Aegis would be willing to jeopardize their business just to help NASCAR. A prescription by a doctor does not guarantee that the patient will not knowingly or unknowingly misuse the drug. I still believe it is possible that the issue is misuse or overuse of a legal substance, not abuse.

ezrider714
06/05/2009 10:17 PM
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misuse or overuse of a legal substance is the very definition of Abuse There is no comparison to the NFL policy, they have a list of banned substances, not a line of bullshit a mile long

Richard in N.C.
06/06/2009 07:58 PM
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Well I guess I didn’t say that very well. I was trying to contrast misuse by accident or ignorance from recreational use. I have not had a chance to try to find the NFL’s policy, but they don’t have to worry about a player falling asleep during the game. NASCAR’s policy says “prohibited substances are those substances that, in NASCAR’S determination, may affect adversely the safety and well-being of the Competitors, Officials and/or spectators….” If the NFL has a list of banned substances, I suspect there is still some language like the above and that the list is supplemented frequently – but then I believe the NFL and the players union had to agree on the NFL policy. The World Anti-Doping list of banned substances is a 9 page list of chemical substances, only the last page of which deals with illegal drugs like cocaine.

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