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Woody: Mayfield Case Doesn’t Make Sense

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 13 2009
Jeremy Mayfield was suspended from driving by NASCAR.

Jeremy Mayfield was suspended from driving by NASCAR.

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer 

I became acquainted with Jeremy Mayfield when he moved from Owensboro, Ky., to Nashville as a teenager, following the career path of his hometown hero Darrell Waltrip.

Mayfield, like Waltrip, began racing at historical old Fairgrounds Speedway while working at Sadler Racing. He swept floors, did body work, handled odd jobs around the shop in exchange for getting to drive one of Sadler’s ARCA cars.

Mayfield was obviously a talented driver, a star in the making. In 1994 he joined Cale Yarborough’s new Cup team – being hired to drive for Cale Yarborough was a pretty stout endorsement – and his career took off from there.

One summer I visited Mayfield’s hometown and visited his mom at the hardware store she operated. I toured the famed old Owensboro racetrack where Mayfield, the Green brothers and the Waltrips earned their stripes. I talked to several of Jeremy’s high school buddies and old racing rivals.

I didn’t find a critic among them. Mayfield was an All-American kid, clean-cut, dedicated, hard-working. He was always friendly and out-going; once when I wrote a story criticizing his then-team-owner Ray Evernham, Mayfield sought me out in the garage to make sure “everything is OK between you and me.”

I assured him that it was; my complaint was about how Evernham had treated young driver Casey Atwood and was in no way a criticism of Mayfield who had been chosen to replace Atwood.

I’ve said all that to say this: I’ve known Jeremy Mayfield, 39, for almost half his life, and the Jeremy Mayfield we’ve been reading about in recent days doesn’t fit the description.

Mayfield last week was suspended by NASCAR for violation of its substance abuse policy. Mayfield said he is innocent of any wrong-doing and believes he may have mixed some combination of legal prescription drugs that resulted in a positive test.

I’ve always supported NASCAR’s tough drug policy – I think others sports should be equally tough – but I have one problem with it: NASCAR declines to specify what drugs are banned.

Its position is that even legal prescription drugs, if abused, could cause impairment and it retains the right to ban any participant it feels might be so impaired.

That’s fine in theory, but it’s easy to see how it could lead to confusion and problems. If a driver doesn’t know if a specific prescription drug is illegal, how is he supposed to know not to use it for a legitimate ailment?

Another part of NASCAR’s drug policy is to not disclose or comment on what drug a participant tested positive for. If I were a driver charged with violating the policy, as is case with Mayfield, I would insist that NASCAR make my lab test public. Make it public, and show exactly what I’m guilty of and why I’ve been suspended.

I suppose NASCAR is leery of lawsuits, but it seems it would be equally vulnerable to legal action by announcing a participant’s ban for “substance abuse” and supplying no further details.

Maybe Mayfield is guilty as charged. Maybe he knowingly used an illegal substance. But it’s hard for me to believe that the bright, hard-working young man I’ve known for so long could be so reckless.

Mayfield has devoted his life to his racing dream, and it has often been a struggle. This year he founded his own team from scratch. Every week has been a battle to get into the race, then another battle to keep up with the big-bucks teams.

Nobody has worked harder to get where he is, and to earn what he’s got, than Mayfield. Knowing full well that under NASCAR’s stated policy he could be drug-tested at any moment, would he risk flushing all his work, his dream – his life — down the toilet?

Maybe he did. Maybe he played Russian Roulette with a banned substance and lost. But it’s hard for me to buy it.

If it’s true, it’s certainly not the young man I’ve been so fond of for so many years. That’s not the Jeremy Mayfield I know. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 13 2009


  • Julia says:

    I would love to believe Jeremy, I really would. I just have a problem with what he said was the reason he failed. I myself take 2 different allergy medications. One of them is OTC Alavert-D the other a perscription. I have taken a drug test during the time I have been taking both meds. I passed with no problems. I did however tell the people giving the test what I was taking. Could it be that Jeremy forgot to tell them he was taking 2 different drugs? Once he shows NA$CAR and the Dr’s this, everything would be fine? I hope so, but if that were true and it had been me, I would have been screaming from the rooftops and waving my proof all the the county showing I did nothing wrong. I do wonder why Jeremy has said nothing since his 1st comments.

  • […] I became acquainted with Jeremy Mayfield when he moved from Owensboro, Ky., to Nashville as a teenager, following the career path of his hometown hero Darrell Waltrip. Mayfield, like Waltrip, began racing … http://www.racintoday.com/archives/3882 […]

  • marc says:

    Larry Woody – “If I were a driver charged with violating the policy, as is case with Mayfield, I would insist that NASCAR make my lab test public. Make it public, and show exactly what I’m guilty of and why I’ve been suspended.

    Larry, it would be perfectly within your rights to feel or act that way in that situation. Two points:

    1. What you want can’t be assumed of others.
    2. I feel reasonably certain NASCAR’s policy contains language concerning privacy that prohibits the release of the substance found during a test. As one who spent 12 of my 20 years in the U.S. Navy as a drug councilor and Master-at-Arms I became not only very familiar with the Navys program but those of other major drug testing programs world-wide.

    A couple other points Larry, you rightfully say NASCAR is “leery of lawsuits, there’s little doubt of that. But…

    Along with a published list of banned drugs, both illegal and those over-the-counter that can and will pop positive for banned drugs NASCAR must revise how a second and confirming test is administered.

    As we know Mayfield popped positive on the first test, As mandated, and for confirmation of the first a second test was given. However that test was at least 3 days later.

    Between the time of the first and second test Mayfield is legally considered innocent. And note some in the media have complained about letting Mayfield on track knowing of his positive test and before the second was given. The claim is he was a danger to others.

    Anyway, the problem is someone that knows he’s “dirty” and is randomly selected for a test, and knows it will be x number of days before a confirming second test will be given has time to flush some drugs either thru his actions or thru the bodies ability to flush certain drugs from the system within hours after use.

    The ONLY solution to this problem is for Aegis Labs to take two separate samples at the time of the first test, The second one being reserved for a later and confirming test if the first is positive.

    Until that’s corrected NASCAR and Aegis Labs may at some point be sued by a driver/crewman if they are positive in the first test, barred from the track and the second one fails to show positive for drug usage.

  • Bill B says:

    I don’t know if Jeremy is guilty or innocent. I don’t know how well you know him. But I do know that unless you know someone very, very well they only let you see what they want you to see. He wouldn’t be the first person that hid a problem for years. How many husbands can hide a gambling problem or an affair from their wives for years. Like I said, I’m not saying that’s the case with Jeremy but if you ask any drug conselor they will tell you that it isn’t that rare for someone to “fool” those around them for long periods of time.

  • Brit Clopton says:

    very surprising to hear all the competitors and even commentators expressing concern for Jeremy to “get his life back on track” then maybe he can renew his career. either NOBODY is going to question NASCAR as you did, or they know Jeremy a little better than me or you. even DW, who’s not under france’s thumb said this. hhmmmmm

  • shane skirvin says:

    Every driver is in the same boat on this. Better safe than sorry: report what you take especially since you do not know for sure what is banned and what is not. Its hard to feel sorry for Jeremy right now, and if we knew what he was on we might want to see him lynched.
    Nascar not telling us might be a good thing for us as fans, and Jeremy as a person. I propose that Jeremy Mayfield combine his concoction of medicines in the same doses, and have his attempt at explaining his side proven. He needs to defend his honor by fighting.

    Unless he is lying which I think he is.
    Also we all need to remember he crashed at Richmond and tested positive afterward. I do not think it is a good idea that everyone knows what he was on for the reason someone could have been hurt in the race. if he is or was innocent he will fight.

  • Dave Shaut says:

    I hear you and have felt much the same about Jeremy, though obviously I don’t know him. Also agree that it is odd NASCAR won’t tell drivers and the public what is banned and what isn’t. Makes it difficult to live within those type of “rules”. NASCAR is an odd entity in that it wields complete power over teams and drivers. May be time for a lawsuit on behalf of drivers and owners to open this up a bit, but nothing has worked in the past.

    I want to think the best of Jeremy. He comes from a long line of Owensboro, KY drivers. Hope he can bounce back from this.