Tuesday, May 19, 2009

COMMENTARY: NASCAR Needs To End Mayfield Debate

The man in charge of NASCAR's substance abuse program says he personally told Jeremy Mayfield what substance had been found in the driver’s system. Dr. David Black is the CEO of Aegis Sciences Corporation, and he said yesterday that he identified the specific drug found in Mayfield’s test sample in several conversations with Mayfield over a three-day period last week.

Mayfield claimed Saturday that he has yet to be informed what drug caused the positive test, and repeated his earlier belief that a combination of a prescription drug and Claritin-D led to his suspension from NASCAR. Black has repeatedly rejected that explanation, saying the drugs Mayfield cited could not have produced the results in question.

Black's latest salvo notwithstanding, there is little doubt that Mayfield is winning the public relations battle with NASCAR.

His appearance at Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race was carefully choreographed, right down to the videographer and audio engineer he brought along to document the outing. It’s no coincidence that Mayfield climbed atop a hospitality trailer emblazoned with the logos of NASCAR’s most popular driver – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – to wait for the media onslaught he certainly knew would ensue. And when it did, he was more than happy to climb down and tell his tale … yet again.

Mayfield knew he wasn’t supposed to be at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Saturday night. Too many drivers, crewchiefs and crewmembers have been barred from various speedways in recent years while serving suspensions for there to be any misunderstanding about that. But the opportunity to make his case yet again, smack in the middle of NASCAR’s All-Star celebration, was too good to pass up. Being unceremoniously escorted off the property by track security didn’t hurt his image as the embattled working man, either.

Faced with a “he-said/she-said” situation like this, people tend to believe individuals over corporations. We want to believe that no NASCAR driver would ever abuse drugs, even though Shane Hmiel, Aaron Fike and the late Kevin Grubb have provided tragic proof to the contrary.

NASCAR could end this whole, ugly debate instantly by publicizing what specific substance was found in Mayfield’s system, allowing medical experts to determine – once and for all – whether Mayfield is the unwitting victim of a tragic mix-up, or a simple drug addict. NASCAR refuses to do so, however, clinging stubbornly to the belief that they have no right to divulge information that Mayfield himself seems unwilling to divulge.

I consider Jeremy Mayfield a friend. We reached out to him last fall to provide expert analysis on NASCAR’s 2008 Chase For The Sprint Cup, and he did an outstanding job. I have never seen or heard anything from Jeremy that made me suspect drug abuse. However, I also have no reason to believe that NASCAR would randomly destroy a driver’s career by leveling an unfounded accusation, as Mayfield accuses them of doing. I am personally torn by the whole debate, as are many in the NASCAR garage. The one thing I do know, however, is that I’m tired of hearing people call each other liars.

At this point, NASCAR has said all it needs to say. They have stated repeatedly that the substance in question was not alcohol, an OTC medication or a legally prescribed drug. They say they have informed Mayfield – on three different occasions – what the substance is, and why he was suspended. Continuing to play “he-said/she-said” with Mayfield is pointless, and does nothing to clarify an admittedly murky situation.

In my view, it’s time for NASCAR to turn the page on Jeremy Mayfield and make the next move his. Leave him to either attend rehab as required by the sanctioning body – something he has defiantly insisted he will not do – or file a lawsuit against NASCAR, making the results of his drug test a matter of public record, once and for all.

It’s time for this daily dog and pony show to end, and for Mayfield to take action, one way or another. And better yet, it’s time to get back to racing.

No comments:

Post a Comment