Woody: Mayfield Could Strike Gold
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments