Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is Silence Over Mayfield Fallout A Sign Of Things To Come?

By Jerry Bonkowski

It's so downright quiet out there in NASCARland that it's almost spooky.

As I suggest in my Tuesday blog for AutoRacingDaily.com (click on link on left side of this page), I can't help but wonder why we have heard very little from NASCAR or Jeremy Mayfield's camp since NASCAR placed Mayfield on indefinite suspension Saturday for testing positive for alleged use of an illegal substance or substances.

Mayfield fans – and even non-Mayfield fans – have come out of the woodwork to give their take on the situation, with the majority siding with the owner/driver of the No. 41 Toyota.

In fact, here at JerryBonkowski.com, we set single-day records for total page views, total visitors and also reader comments based upon the column I wrote on Mayfield late Sunday.

(By the way, thank you all ever so much for being part of and helping set those numbers).

So, doesn't it strike anyone else odd, like it does myself, that we've heard nary a peep about the incident since Saturday?

Sure, Dr. David Black, who oversees NASCAR's drug testing policy and is also CEO/president of the firm that performs the tests, Aegis Science Labs (by the way, Black's dual roles seem like a blatant conflict of interest to me), made some comments Sunday and Monday, essentially defending the testing procedure and claiming Mayfield's explanation on the situation was implausible.

But where was NASCAR chairman Brian France or president Mike Helton on Sunday or Monday? Playing golf or spending so much time with their mothers that they couldn't follow-up on Saturday's bombshell?

And where is Mayfield? Is he simply lying low, letting his attorneys prepare both a defense and offensive counterstrike?

Or, like I mention in my blog, could there potentially be a deal being worked on that could help both sides save some serious face?

I have to think that all the resulting bad publicity from Mayfield's suspension is something NASCAR did not bargain for. And, I also have to wonder how Dr. Black can be so adamant that there isn't even the slightest chance ASL's test results could perhaps be flawed, when at least a couple of other nationally recognized experts in the field have come out over the last couple days claiming that it indeed IS possible.

I have a very strange feeling in the pit of my stomach that things are going to go off in a radically different direction in the next day or two, certainly by the end of the week.

I have no proof or inside scoop on this, other than an educated guess, but I keep wondering if maybe there's a compromise deal in the works to potentially reinstate Mayfield, but still with some semblance of a penalty tacked on to the reinstatement possibility.

Look at it this way: if Mayfield is as innocent as he said he was in the statement that was released Saturday night, why haven't we heard anything more from him since then, particularly why hasn't he publicly revealed what prescribed and over-the-counter medications he said he had taken?

Two reasons: either his lawyers have told him to keep his mouth shut while they finish off a deal (the most likely reason), or he's guilty (not so likely reason).

And NASCAR's top officials have been scarcer than a dog tail at a rocking chair convention.

Two reasons for that, as well: either they are going to remain adamant that Mayfield did something wrong and feel no further comment is warranted past the actions already taken, or they're working on a public mea culpa that maybe they jumped to penalize Mayfield too early, that perhaps the test had some semblance of error, that maybe Mayfield's explanation suddenly makes sense, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Again, I may be way off on this one – and if I wind up being such, I'll be the first to take my lumps – but my gut meter (which rarely fails me, by the way) is telling me that when there's tons of silence emanating from NASCAR's headquarters in Daytona Beach, it usually means there's lots of talking going on inside.

My guess is NASCAR and Mayfield are going to reach an out-of-court settlement of sorts that will have him agree to some type of suspension (I'm guessing a couple of races), in exchange for him publicly admitting that he failed to notify Aegis or NASCAR officials that he had perfectly legal yet still considered banned substances by the sanctioning body in his system.

NASCAR, in turn, admits its testing policy is very effective, but it may need some tweaks – as evidenced by what happened to Mayfield. Ergo, the "integrity" of the program, not to mention the reputation of NASCAR and Aegis Science Labs remains intact.

Do you agree that a deal may be in the works? Tell us what you think (feel free to post your comments below – and please include your real name and location, not "Anonymous" as a selection). Thanks!


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I especially like your line, “…when there's tons of silence emanating from NASCAR's headquarters in Daytona Beach, it usually means there's lots of talking going on inside.”

    There definitely is something going on in either, or both camps. Now, all we can do is sit back and wait for the other shoe to drop.

    Aka: Brian Battaglia, Omaha, NE

  2. Jerry,

    I read somewhere that with NASCAR's testing, they provide a list of banned/tested for substances for crew members, but NOT for drivers, leaving that to their discretion. If that's the case, then it sure does make it tough for Mayfield to ever have disclosed the banned substances that he may have taken, whether they were impactful of his ability to drive safely or not.

    On another note though, don't forget the NASCAR News Alerts that come out and the fact that there have been 2 other substance testing suspensions in the last month or so.. 1 of a Nationwide Crew Member and another of a, I believe, Wheelen series participant. Although Mayfield's situation may prove 'not so bad', when considered in whole, those 2 incidents that were minimally reported by the NASCAR media PLUS the Kevin Grubb story PLUS the Mayfield incident do need to serve as a reminder that just because it's not talked about doesn't mean it doesn't exist... just my thoughts of course.

  3. It's really unlikely there's going to be a deal regarding a positive drug test for a substance Dr. Black described as "a drug of great concern."

    Jim Hunter was on the Morning Drive to discuss the Mayfield situation and beyond that they've opted to have their expert - Dr. Black - answer questions and speak with the media. His comments carry a lot more weight given his direct involvement with the testing than would Mike Helton's or Brian France's imo. Ramsey Posten summed up NASCAR's stance pretty well on Twitter: "NASCAR substance policy: the misuse or abuse of ANY drug is a violation-End of Story." Hard to figure how any of that can be interpreted as silence from NASCAR or that a deal is in the works. The only one who isn't talking is Mayfield.

  4. I do think your theory is plausible, Jerry, but could this also be a case where NASCAR will stonewall us with the "no appeals process" stance and offer no further comment? We've seen that type of response time and time again on various crew/car chief suspensions for technical infractions over the years. I think this could be a perfect storm brewing for a NASCAR vs. fans smackdown!

    Dusty Duncan
    Claremore, OK

  5. Since Nascar hasn't said what it is, perhaps Mayfield hasn't been told either and his camp is surmising what it could have been. The whole thing is strange - hopefully the Mayfield's get themselves a good PR person when things are figured out between the two camps.

    It's just plain sad. The thought of someone out there on the track with 42 other drivers, crews, etc. scares the heck out of me.

  6. I do not at all understand Bonkowski's stance on this issue. It appears he is trying to stir up things against NASCAR without any evidence to substantiate it. He doesn't seem to have any concern for the safety of 43 drivers including Jeramy. There is something more here than just a media interest in reporting facts, or just stating an opinion.

  7. This is the very reason why I am likely going to ban anonymous postings. I am simply stating an OPINION, which is what columnists do. You don't have to agree; that's your prerogative. I have always had the safety of drivers at the forefront of my thoughts -- and by the way, if you really knew Mayfield, you'd know he spells his name Jeremy. Let's see, post anonymously, you don't know what you're talking about and you think you can just hit and run and leave. Guess that makes you the real horse's ass ... and we all know what comes out of asses.

  8. Well, I DISAGREE with anonymous who/whom posted at 2:50 pm. I can only assume that this is the first time you have read anything from Jerry. You are way off base, except for him posting his opinion, which is what he is known for and almost always on target (in my opinion)

    Rich Brannon
    El Paso, Tx

  9. I hope Jeremy comes out of this OK. The Hornaday fiasco was a prime example of Nascar going off half baked as judge jury and executioner. NASCAR are a law unto themselves. Kangaroo court. And yes, I agree on the blatant conflict of interest with Dr Black.

  10. Jerry:

    *Virtual high five from me. "5!"

    Way to take the fight right back to that post.
    Anonymous posters deserve the ban hammer should you choose to wield it!

    Dusty Duncan
    Claremore, OK

  11. Announcement:

    Anonymous postings are now a banned substance on www.jerrybonkowski.com. We won't bother doing random tests on those unwilling to share their name. All those willing to use their name have already been cleared. The decision is final. There is no appeal process.

    Way to go, Jerry.

  12. Thank you for the article. As a loyal fan of Jeremy Mayfield since 1995, I am obviously upset over this whole situation. Anyone who has watched races at all in the last few years cannot help but notice that NASCAR makes up the rules as they go. For example, why would a car spinning out of control and coming to a stop on the track cause a caution in one instance and then the same thing happens a few laps later and it is not a caution (see last Saturday's race at Darlington)? Why is it that Jason Leffler gets a 5 lap penalty for intentionally wrecking Steve Wallace at Daytona, but Dale Jr is not penalized whatsoever for the same exact move the next day? I would love to hear a valid explanation for these things, but I will never get to because there is none. To borrow a phrase from your other article, "a blind man" could see that NASCAR has no consistency whatsoever. I agree with having a strong substance abuse policy, but not giving a list of banned substances is absolutely ridiculous. How is anyone supposed to know if they are compliant or not? This policy gives NASCAR the ability to do whatever they want to do just like the calls they make on the track. I doubt NASCAR will admit a mistake in this situation either, so I hope Jeremy is able to take legal means to get a resolution. If that happens, my only concern in the future is that NASCAR would forever be out to get Jeremy for going over their head and he would then be subject to unfair penalties in the future.

  13. Think of this: If in fact Mayfield did consume ClaritinD24...How can NASCAR save face now with Claritin being Carl Edwards sponsor? I am affraid we will never know the truth on this one due to the amount of dollars that Claritin brings to NASCAR as apposed to Mayfield! Wonder what would have happened if it was Dale JR that had ingested Claritin?

  14. One -NASCAR has the guts to declare they are a business and they will not let people not play by the rules period.This is not the NFL ,MLB ETC
    where they get caught they got managers agents , lawyers,crying the blues get reinstated and keep there dopein ,wife beating ,club fighting,animal abuse ways going as before. NASCAR took a stand they put down the rules MAYFIELD and others broke it No appeal Goodbye! Nascar finally stood up where other sport venues wouldnt and wont This is a great move on there part and all should applaud them and follow there lead
    Thank you NASCAR
    I do a life long fan of over 48 years

  15. "This is not the NFL ,MLB ETC where they get caught they got managers agents , lawyers,crying the blues get reinstated and keep there dopein ,wife beating ,club fighting,animal abuse ways going as before."

    Are you serious? In case you hadn't noticed, the last time an NFL player got caught abusing animals he got drummed out of the league and prosecuted. And as far as doping, maybe you missed the little blurb in the news about the baseball star that got caught doping out in LA and got suspended without pay for 50 games (to the tune of about $8 million in salary). Yeah lawyers and agents really helped Michael Vick and Manny Ramirez "get reinstated and keep there[sic] dopein[sic] and animal abuse ways going as before". That quoted statement is one of the most absurd things I have ever read.

    Has drug testing been perfect in sports? Absolutely not. But to say that NASCAR has such a great program that the other leagues should follow them is another patently absurd statement. NASCAR is already behind the 8-ball on their drug-testing program for one simple reason: THEY DON'T TELL THE DRIVERS WHAT DRUGS ARE ON THE BANNED SUBSTANCE LIST. How can you possibly expect someone to be in compliance when they don't know what they have to be in compliance with? Oh right, NASCAR won't tell you what's on the list, but they'll "know it when they see it".

    I don't know about you, but if I got drug-tested at my job and my bosses came to me and said "you tested positive for a banned substance", I sure as hell wouldn't just take their word for it. The LEAST they could do is tell me what I tested positive for. Which is in essence what NASCAR has done to Jeremy Mayfield: Told him he tested positive for a banned substance, but failed to tell him what the banned substance is.

    It's obvious what has happened here: Jeremy Mayfield got pinched for taking an OTC medication and a prescribed drug. NASCAR has been tight-lipped throughout this entire fiasco because one of the drugs that Jeremy got nailed for is almost certainly Claritin-D. And - well look at that! - Claritin is a major sponsor for NASCAR. And how exactly would that look if you take millions in sponsorship dollars from Claritin, plaster its logo on Carl Edwards car, run commercials for Claritin ad nausuem on race day, and even have Carl state that he's a Claritin user, yet have it show up on the banned substances list? Brian France is many things, but he's not stupid. Jerry hit the nail right on the head: this has been an embarrassment for NASCAR, and it behooves them to settle this quietly with Jeremy. I for one would be surprised if a deal is not worked out between both parties to save face, especially for NASCAR.

    Jerry's piece (quoting Jayski.com) on Greg Biffle is even more disturbing; Biffle actually contacted NASCAR to get clarification on a prescription drug to take for his sore ribs and they couldn't give him a straight answer on whether the medication would make him test positive. Yeah, THAT'S a stellar drug policy, one that all sports leagues should aspire to emulate.

    I tell you what: have Brian France, Mike Helton, and all the executives and support staff at NASCAR HQ take the drug test themselves, and take it during flu and allergy season. I guarantee you 2 things: (1) You would have more than one positive test, and (2) their tune would change REAL quick after one of them got nailed for testing positive from OTC medication. Then again, that second one might not come true since NASCAR probably wouldn't tell them what "banned substance" showed up on their test.

  16. Well this is very disappointing. Apparently disagreeing is not allowed - but NASCAR bashing is. I believe the most telling and overlooked comment is that Jeremy said he respected the NASCAR drug testing system, and I believe he'd already had a team member suspended for failing a test.

  17. If disagreeing was not allowed, Jerry would have deleted all the posts that he didn't agree with, including the anonymous ones. He's instead left them all on here, no matter how moronic they may be.

    Everyone has their own opinion. Whether I agree with it, you agree with it, I disagree with it, or you disagree with it, is fine. Post your own response and let everyone read it.

    But to say that NASCAR is the gold standard in drug policies is absurd, any way you slice it. The simple fact that their "banned substances" list is comprised not of a list of drugs, but NASCAR's assurances that "they'll know it when they see it" puts to rest any notion that this is the gold standard for drug-testing.

    As far as Jeremy saying he respected the drug-testing program, what else is he going to say? "This drug-testing program sucks, it's unfair, and I'm going to fight it until the end"? That would do nothing but make him persona non grata in NASCAR and pretty much signal the end of his career. Jeremy's taken the high road (silence) and I would have done the same thing.

  18. If the NASCAR drug testing system is so bad where was the media criticism last year when it was adopted? Then all the criticism was that NASCAR had waited far too long.

    Misusing a drug can endanger the user and others regardless of whether the misuse is intentional or through lack of knowledge. I am hopeful that Jeremy's error was in misusing a legal substance, or substances, due to lack of information - which presumably he could have avoided by first checking with Aegis.

  19. There's a guy over on autoracingdaily.com who claims to have been a spotter in Sprint Cup and claims to be in contact with people inside NASCAR. He makes it sound like Jeremy Mayfield got pinched for a BIG drug violation. Two quotes from him:

    Bottom line, he wasnt[sic] thrown out for Claritin and its not a conspiracy against Jeremy Mayfield. I’ll bet Jeremy hopes it doesnt[sic] get out.“


    "I’m positive some in the media already know what it is, but cant[sic] report it because they cant[sic] get official verification... Dr Black and others will not verify the drug in the name of privacy for Jeremy."

    Jerry, any thoughts?

  20. George: I consider guys like Spotter22 as braggarts until they can back up their claims with FACTS. Too many guys simply want to see their name in print and will make up all kinds of outlandish claims. In this instance, Spotter22 and NASCAR are cut from the same cloth: they won't reveal their sources or tell us the truth.


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