By Jerry Bonkowski
I admit I've been a staunch supporter of Jeremy Mayfield since he was suspended by NASCAR for allegedly having illegal substances in his system after failing a drug test last month in Richmond.
I have gone on record as saying I felt Mayfield was essentially railroaded and that NASCAR was being unreasonable and heavy handed.
To me, the Mayfield saga was rather personal. You see, the same prescribed drug that Mayfield claims he had recently begun taking in late March, Adderall, is the same drug my teenaged son took for roughly two years to help control his ADD and ADHD conditions.
Ever since he entered grammar school, my son needed to focus his mental and cognitive abilities, and that's why he's taken Adderall, Strattera, Ritalin and Concerta over the last 12 years. If they were indeed "performance enhancing," they were necessary to keep him focused and on-task and not daydream or become unnecessarily mentally and physically fatigued due to his mind and body overworking themselves.
Thankfully, the drugs did what they were supposed to do, and he's not only stayed on task and focused, he also successfully managed to graduate both grammar and high school on time. He's currently doing great in community college, is on task to have a great career and my wife and I have those medications to thank for getting his life turned around.
So, you can see why I might have been defensive of Mayfield.
But in light of Tuesday's news that ESPN The Magazine quotes two unnamed sources that Mayfield actually tested positive for methamphetamine usage, I have to wonder if maybe NASCAR may have a few aces up its sleeve that it plans on using in any upcoming court action against Mayfield.
Maybe that's why the sanctioning body has been so adamant about not saying much, has failed to reveal the identity of the offending substance and has taken the tough stand it has.
Now, I'll still give Mayfield the benefit of the doubt, because if he indeed mixed Adderall and two doses of Claritin D – as he said he did – bringing about the positive test result, yes, the findings would likely mirror the same medicinal compound makeup as methamphetamine.
In other words, if you consumed enough poppy seeds, it's not out of the realm of possibility that you could indeed test positive for heroin use, as both have the same opiate compound makeup.
But I'm also starting to shift my thoughts somewhat and am willing to give NASCAR the benefit of the doubt, too. Maybe Mayfield is completely innocent as I still believe, but given how things have played out, I am also starting to understand why the sanctioning body and chairman Brian France have acted the way they have.
I'll even go so far as to suggest that France and NASCAR were trying to protect the integrity of the sport, even though they went about it in a way that made themselves look in the court of public opinion like the evil henchmen from Daytona for picking on Mayfield, a little guy who was just trying to make a few bucks and trying to keep his race team together in the worst economic climate that most of us have ever experienced.
Right now, I'll even say Mayfield was indeed wrong if he didn't notify NASCAR and Aegis Labs, which oversees drug testing for the sport, that he was taking Adderall – even though it was for such a short period of time, roughly a little over a month before he was tested, from all the reports I've seen and heard.
Yes, I'm still willing to cut him some slack for not telling NASCAR, but at the same time, if he didn't, he kind of created his own problems with all that has developed since. If he had simply told NASCAR and Aegis that he was taking Adderall and Claritin D, he probably would still be racing now.
At the very least, NASCAR may have requested Mayfield to consult with his doctor to find a substitute for Adderall or for Claritin D, which I think would be perfectly reasonable so as to make sure there was not even a smidgeon or hint of impropriety on Mayfield's part.
Strattera, another drug used to treat ADD and ADHD, has no stimulant compounds in its makeup like Adderall and Ritalin. I'm not a doctor, but it would be a logical compromise for Mayfield to use to battle his issue, especially coming from a father whose son has used all those drugs in the past to keep his condition in-check.
One thing about drugs that are used to treat ADD and ADHD: they affect individuals in greatly different ways, not just from person to person, but also drug to drug. What Adderall may do for one person doesn't necessarily mean it'll have the same affect on someone else, or have the same affect as someone taking Strattera or Concerta or Ritalin.
And, what's more, those drugs also can eventually become ineffective over time, if taken as prescribed. That's why my son has shifted from one medication to another about every two years or so.
It's all a matter of finding a balance and striking it properly. Even with all the years of medical research and testing, taking medications to control conditions like ADHD and ADD still remains somewhat of an inexact science, in both my personal opinion and personal experience.
Like many, I'm anxious to see this case get to court. If Mayfield is found to be innocent, but still found "guilty" for not telling NASCAR that he was taking Adderall and Claritin D, then I think the time off and embarrassment he's already endured should be considered time served, so to speak.
But, if this becomes a case that those two medications did not necessarily produce the positive test result – and that he actually had ingested a third drug which truly was illegal – than NASCAR would be right in having thrown the book at Mayfield.