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Woody: Mayfield Could Strike Gold

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 2 2009
Jeremy Mayfield

Jeremy Mayfield

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

RacinToday.com

After news broke Wednesday about a federal judge lifting NASCAR’s suspension of Jeremy Mayfield for alleged drug use, I called a lawyer buddy to ask him what it meant.

He said it means that Mayfield is probably going to be a very wealthy young man.

When the case winds its way to civil court and the doctor in charge of NASCAR’s drug testing program takes the stand, he’ll be asked one simple question:

“Can a drug test be flawed – is it theoretically possible to get a false positive?”

If he answers “Yes,” he can step down. Case over.

Unless NASCAR can produce a witness(s) who will swear that they saw Mayfield ingest methamphetamines or testify to a prior history of drug use, it’s lost.

Even if the drug tester insists it’s 100 percent impossible for a test to be wrong, a jury probably won’t buy it – not after Mayfield’s attorney gets through probing the process with a sharp stick:

Who took the sample? How sterile was the environment?

Where did the sample container come from? Was it checked for sterility?

How many hands did the sample pass through before it arrived at the Nashville lab?

How was it secured during transport? Who secured it at the lab?

How many other drug samples were in the clinic while Mayfield’s sample was there?

If the doc remains unshakable – sticking to his contention that there is absolutely no way the urine sample could have been contaminated (even though he didn’t personally escort it every step of the way and can’t say for certain who or how many persons had access to it) and that he’s 100-percent positive that his testing process or results couldn’t possibly be flawed in any way, that very smugness could turn off jurors.  They’re gong to be suspicious of any technician who claims to be 100-percent perfect 100 percent of the time.

On the other hand, if he admits to being only 99 percent perfect – that there’s a remote chance that the test could somehow be tainted – case over.

Mayfield’s attorney won’t even have to call to the stand a troop of drug experts to testify about all the ways that a test can produce a false positive.

My lawyer friend said it’s significant that the federal judge lifted Mayfield’s suspension and allowed him to race. It indicates that the judge doesn’t believe Mayfield to be a threat to himself or others. That will carry a lot of legal clout in the next round.

As for NASCAR saying it intends to test Mayfield every time he steps onto a racetrack, that’s a plus for him. The more tests the better. Mayfield is obviously not going to mess with anything now (even if he ever did), so every negative test NASCAR conducts will be a positive for Mayfield.

Remember, Mayfield doesn’t have to prove he’s innocent. NASCAR has to prove he’s guilty.

I’m told that the next question will be how much Mayfield will sue for, claiming damaged reputation and lost earnings.

I’ve always supported NASCAR’s hard-line on drugs and felt that other sports should follow its lead. But the process is flawed because NASCAR refuses to disclose what substances are banned.

Obviously illegal drugs are on the list, but what else? Could too many faddish “energy drinks” make a driver jittery?

I thought from the outset that if NASCAR’s substance-abuse policy was ever challenged in court it would have a hard time defending it. How can it ban a legal medication – which Mayfield insists is all he took?

Many drivers are like me – they support the premise but are uncomfortable with the process.

NASCAR has the right idea; no impaired person should be allowed on or near a racetrack. But the devil’s in the details. NASCAR sought a simple solution to a complex problem and it backfired.

Numerous times over the past half-century NASCAR’s absolute control over the sport has been challenged, and it has never lost a significant battle. Until, apparently, now. 

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 2 2009
7 Comments

7 Comments »

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    If the NASCAR drug testing program is so flawed, then part of the fault belongs to the media for not pointing that out last fall when the program was announced – see how much trouble could have been saved.

    I’m still waiting on someone in the media to demonstrate how faulty the NASCAR drug testing program is by comparing it to how the program of another major racing series works. Having read NASCAR’s program, prohibiting use of any substance that might adversely affect a competitor’s ability to perform – including misuse of prescription drugs- makes more sense to me than having a list that gets updated weekly.

    It amazes me that the general sports media has crucified Sammy Sosa based upon a report of admittedly stolen information on an alleged failed drug test, but NASCAR is almost deemed guilty and its program flawed by definition. A double standard if there ever was one.

  • Bob Calsetta says:

    If NASCAR’s drug testing was so good, why have they changed their procedures? NASCAR’s above the law attitude needs challengin and if Jeremy is vindicated he should receive finacial compensation because if he is innocent his reputation and future have ruined by them. If they weren’t so high and mighty they would have agreed to more advanced testing
    from an independent lab before the next race took place and left no questions about their decision.

  • Lou says:

    The arrogance of nascar is coming home to roost. They are subject to federal laws. Their usual we make the rules, see you later attitude won’t fly in federal court.

  • John says:

    I really think Mayfield has been abused by Nascar, but time will tell… It just seems the Bullies Of Nascar have really gotten this one wrong… I’m sure Mayfield’s attorny has already done two more drug tests… One, a blood test for drugs, much more accurate then urine test… Two, hair test for drugs, the grand daddy of accurate drug tests… The drugs NEVER leave your head hair your entire life… That test will find drug use from 30 years ago and more… I would imagine Mayfields attorny has done them… Finally Mayfields career is shot… No sponsor will likely sign with him… Mayfield, I hope you get millions…

    • B.C. Pigg says:

      Amen Brother You said it all. I hope NASCAR has to end up borrowing money From Jeremy to make payroll. Those self righteous hippos. They should have done the hair deal before they ruined Jeremy’s reputation.I cant wait untill his atty makes a fool out of them.

  • Big Alice says:

    I hope this does indeed alter testing policies.

    Our society in general, seems to accept one failed test as “fact”. When indeed there are countless ways the results can be flawed. No
    tests are ever 100% accurate 100% of the time…yet a flawed test can easily ruin someones reputation, their living, their life. That hardly seems right. Not just NASCAR, but everything that involves drug testing should be held to a higher accountability…and a failed test should start a “process” of fact finding instead of an automatic process of “you are guilty – here is your punishment.”

  • Glen Harness says:

    It seems to me that Mayfield has now rendered NASCAR’s drug testing policy null and void.

    I suspect that if NASCAR has a shot at having a workable drug testing policy, every time a sample is taken, a NASCAR representative and a representative of the driver will have to accompany the sample to the lab and watch the tests being performed. Otherwise anyone else can claim that the sample was compromised.