Mayfield is either incredibly innocent or incredibly crazy
At the very beginning of this year NASCAR initiated a new substance abuse policy. Part of that policy featured random drug testing during a race weekend. The bottom line here was clearly evident: NASCAR has a zero tolerance policy towards drivers being behind the wheel of their race cars while under the influence of drugs.
The new policy was heralded by the drivers, team owners, the racing media and the fans. Many said it was about time a stronger policy was introduced. It was also noted that NASCAR's new substance abuse policy made them stand considerably taller above the programs used by the other major sports in this country.
You can well imagine the shock of discovering that the second indefinite suspension, handed down by NASCAR, was Mayfield himself. That surprising news was announced during the Darlington Raceway weekend. It was revealed that Mayfield was selected for random testing, following the race at Richmond held the week before, and the test turned up positive. So did a second, backup, urine sample.
At the time Mayfield said he felt the problem was the fact that he had combined a prescribed medicine, issued by his personal physician, with an over the counter, OTC, allergy medication known as Claritin D. He also made it clear that he was not one who believed in the use of recreational and illegal narcotics. He also said he would be working closely with Dr. David Black to resolve the situation. Dr. Black operates the Tennessee based Aegis Sciences Corporation who oversees NASCAR substance abuse testing procedures.
The indefinite suspension handed down to Mayfield impacted him both as a driver and a team owner. The terms states that he is not allowed to participate in any NASCAR sanctioned events both on and off the track. The team ownership was transferred to Mayfield's wife, Shana, with NASCAR's approval. Driver J J Yeley was named as interim driver so the team could maintain operations. Mayfield Motorsports' sponsors, led by All Sport, indicated that they were staying in place while taking a wait and see position.
Mayfield's earlier pledge to respect and support the program, including working with Dr. Black, has taken a rather amazing turn over the past several days. Tempers are flaring on both sides and this story has the making of a potential nasty situation. It also has many observers thinking that Mayfield is either incredibly innocent or incredibly crazy. Here's the breakdown on this dispute:
Despite being told that his suspension will not allow him to participate in any NASCAR sanctioned event, on or off the track, Mayfield makes a surprise appearance at the Lowe's Motor Speedway during the All-Star weekend. He said he was there to watch his team race and had purchased a garage and hospitality area pass.
He was accompanied by a personal video crew which he said was arranged long before he was tested and suspended.
He conducted an impromptu press conference and said he had no intentions of submitting to counseling and rehab with Dr. Black's program despite the fact it was the fastest path to getting reinstated as a driver. That decision was based on the fact that he has nothing to do with drugs. While maintaining his innocence, he again stated that the failed test was due to a prescription drug combined with the Claritin. He didn't specifically say what that prescription medicine was.
He also said that he offered to submit to a hair follicle test which is more comprehensive than the standard urine test but that offer was declined.
Mayfield claimed that no one, including Dr. Black and NASCAR, has ever revealed to him exactly what the banned substance was that was found in his test results. He also said he never received a copy of the test results.
After again maintaining that the Claritin D allergy medication, mixed with his prescription, created a positive test result, Mayfield surprised the media by claiming that NASCAR was protecting a high profile sponsor. Claritin is the sponsor of Carl Edward's Roush Fenway Racing Ford and is a high profile advertiser on the race broadcasts.
Mayfield next dropped a major bomb when he told the media that he was considering legal action against NASCAR and Aegis Sciences Corporation.
Later in the day Mayfield was seen on top of a hospitality unit hosted by The National Guard where he granted a private interview with NASCAR writer/ESPN analyst Marty Smith.
By this point NASCAR became aware of Mayfield's presence and reminded him that the terms of his suspension prohibited from being in the garage area. Mayfield reportedly said that he must have misunderstood the rule, left the premises and said that he would comply with from now on.
A clearly upset Dr. David Black took exception to Mayfield's comments about never being told what his test results revealed. Black said "I spoke with him about his positive test result on the day he was suspended. I spoke to him directly about the results and, yes, it was by name of what he tested positive for." Black said he wasn't aware if Mayfield received a copy of the test results and noted that the report would have been sent to him by NASCAR and not by Aegis.
NASCAR Spokesman Ramsey Poston said that no one at NASCAR was aware that Mayfield had ever asked for a copy of the report. "We'd be happy to provide one if he wants it. We've done this in the past upon request for those who tested positive," Poston said.
Mayfield announces that he has retained the services of high profile attorney Bill Diehl and all future comments on his situation will be issued by his attorney.
Mayfield and Diehl meet with NASCAR officials and their counsel. Diehl called the meeting "cordial" but added that there was no real progress made on resolving the issue. "We're contesting everything that has happened, we're hoping that it's a mistake," he said.
He declined to reveal the name of the banned substance that led to his client's suspension but did say that he has received two copies of the toxicology report from NASCAR.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston agreed that the meeting was cordial and added, "They want to get Jeremy back into the car and there's a well defined program to do that. If he's successful with that then he can get back into the car.
Following the meeting Mayfield and Diehl were picked up by Shana Mayfield. A camera man was riding in the back seat and began filming Mayfield talking with the crowd that had gathered. Mayfield was very polite and friendly but was told by Diehl not to make any comments on his situation.
Attorney Bill Diehl did a live interview on the national radio program, "Sirius Speedway", hosted by Dave Moody and said that a possible lawsuit depends on what happens between Mayfield and NASCAR over the next few days.
He declined to comment on what exactly was said during the meeting with NASCAR but did note that the focus of the meeting was on whether or not Mayfield was suspended properly, was it legitimate, should he remain suspended and should he do rehab.
Diehl also told Moody that there were some side issues to be considered adding, "They've said a lot of unpleasant things about him that Jeremy Mayfield doesn't believe are true. There's a separate remedy for that kind of behavior." Diehl specifically mentioned NASCAR Chairman Brian France who, from a published report that he had read, reportedly said "The serous recreational drug use by Jeremy Mayfield was very difficult, very bad and we're not going to tolerate it." Responding to that quote Diehl said, "Accusing somebody that's driving a race car at a couple of hundred miles per hour of serious recreational drug use is probably not too good of a thing to say about him especially if it's not true."
During the course of the interview with Moody, Diehl declined to name the specific drug from the test results nor would he name Mayfield's prescription that he combined with the Claritin D tablets which was purchased from a Richmond, Virginia store near the race track.
When asked what it would take to avoid a lawsuit, Diehl said "some type of acknowledgement that what happened was a mistake on the part of somebody in connection with what they did and how they did it. We're exploring that with them. They've said it, they've suspended him and we can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Somebody's going to have to come forward and acknowledge that, well, we thought we did what we were supposed to do, maybe we made a mistake, let's try again."
Diehl wouldn't comment on a final deadline on filing a lawsuit but he did tell Moody that he had a time frame in mind.
When questioned by the racing media Bill Diehl said it would be sometime next week, (as in any day now), before they reveal what action they may take against NASCAR
NASCAR Chairman Brian France made it crystal clear that there will be no consideration for an out of court settlement if Mayfield proceeds with plans to file a lawsuit. "We'll defend the (drug) policy and we're very confident about the policy," he said.
Now all of this becomes a case of wait and see what happens next. Traditionally speaking, NASCAR doesn't take too kindly to someone filing a lawsuit against them and they aggressively pursue the matter to a successful conclusion. The former owners of the Kentucky Speedway can vouch for that.
There also seems to be a question of available resources here. NASCAR has deep pockets and can afford as many attorneys as it takes to win this legal challenge. On the other hand Mayfield appears to have limited resources and only one lawyer albeit a very good one.
It's crystal clear that Mayfield has drawn a line in the sand. It's equally clear that NASCAR quickly stepped over that line to prove that they will aggressively meet any challenge that comes their way.
The fact that Mayfield is taking this approach raises two questions: is he incredibly innocent or is he incredibly crazy?
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