Just hearing the word makes you sit up and look around, doesn’t it? This Saturday, at approximately 6 p.m., you could hear a pin drop when the announcement was made that a driver in the Sprint Cup Series had been suspended… because of drugs.
NASCAR randomly tested Jeremy Mayfield after the Richmond race. He actually ran a qualifying lap at Darlington on Friday before the announcement was made. Clearly, the wheels of justice do not turn that quickly when it comes to drug testing. Almost an entire week had lapsed between the test and his summary sentencing.
Suspended indefinitely is how NASCAR says, “A drug of concern was found in your sample.”
Mayfield and his doctor have since approached NASCAR and David Black, the owner of Aegis Labs that provide the testing, stating that they believed the combination of an over-the-counter medication and a prescription drug for Mayfield’s allergies were the true culprits here. However, the powers that be are unmoving in their conviction that this was no false-positive. Mayfield must now complete a drug treatment program before applying for reinstatement into the sport that, until now, has defined his life.
And now it comes… the condemnations, the microscopic study of the violator’s life, the “I never saw it coming” and the “What else can you expect from these famous drivers?”
I am no better than the next person. I grunted in disgust when Jim Hunter issued the press release regarding Mayfield’s suspension. But, I have since taken the time to stop and think about this and after much cogitation it all comes down to:
I wasn’t there. I don’t know exactly what went through Jeremy’s mind or bloodstream.
However, this does not stop me from stating what should be the obvious.
If a driver ever gets behind the wheel of a race car with the intention to drive it in a race—any race—and that driver is impaired due to the ingestion of a mind-numbing, perception altering or just slightly-not-too-bad-but-don’t-take-it-while-you’re driving-drug…That driver should be suspended from our sport immediately and without remorse.
While it is the responsibility of each human being on this planet to use humility, understanding and common sense when sitting in judgment of another person, it is a greater responsibility to ensure the safety and livelihood of their neighbor. To ignore this obligation, and enter into a situation where actions can cause harm through negligence and ignorance, is too great a crime.
There is a great deal of suffering in this world. Much of it occurs inside our own heads. It can be understood that each person fights their personal demons, private wars and may stave off their insecurities by seeking solace in any number of politically incorrect manners.
However, NASCAR has not and should not allow such soft-hearted emotions to color any decisions when it comes to their substance abuse policy. Innocent lives are at stake here.
No risk is acceptable in this particular corner of our sport.
Maybe Mayfield took something for his allergies that he felt wasn’t going to cause any problems. Perhaps his doctor reassured him it wouldn’t be an issue.
Maybe, they both needed to pick up a phone and ask the question before popping those pills.
As NASCAR did the responsible thing and suspended Mayfield, Jeremy must also do the right thing and learn from his mistake.
I hope he does. I truly hope he does.