Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What If NASCAR Is Right In Mayfield Case?

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.


  1. I can understand the doubt and am feeling it myself.

    Nut the underlying thing is, why? Why would he contest it if he was a meth user? Why wouldn't he just have taken it and slunk off? If he was a user, how could he convince himself that he should be exonerated?

  2. Sorry Jerry, NASCAR is on my "S" list for using both samples up. They were required to allow him to have a different lab test too. By taking this second test at a different lab away, he lost any chance to exonerate himself. Between this and the Long thing I am fed up with NASCAR and their targeting of small teams. Remember Robbie Gordon last year and how they changed his fines when the public howled? They can keep their private corporation after this year, I am only following things to choose my fantasy teams. Unless they drastically change their management of NASCAR I am gone as a fan.

    Karen S

  3. Karen, we hate to lose you too!! Though I can understand your sentiments. Maybe Jamie Mc will get on a hot streak and bring you back :)

    Jerry, very thoughtful and insightful piece. I agree with just about everything you're saying here, and share your views towards opening up to the realm of possibility that maybe NASCAR isn't the evil empire it was playing a few weeks back. I just hope for the sake of the sport we have some sort of resolution soon. I would argue the black cloud over this case is far worse than the discrimination suit last year. Hopefully it will be dealt with swiftly to minimize the damage to public perception. If we lose more fans like Karen S, this sport is in trouble.

    In other news, I saw this little ad for the Pocono race on TNT and had to share with some of my "Down With Digger" friends....


    Dusty Duncan
    Claremore, OK

  4. First off, I think this is a sign of the apocalypse.

    Jerry has nothing but good words to say about Jr. on the AutoRacingDaily.com site, http://www.autoracingdaily.com/site/comments_new/can-dale-jr-still-make-the-chase/, and now he is saying good things about the sanctioning body as well…

    Who are you and what have you done with my friend JB?!

    All joking aside, I also tend to agree with your post. It’s getting close to “put up or shut up time” for both Mayfield, and NASCAR on this one. I, along with many, will be happy when this chapter has come to a conclusion, regardless of what that may be.

    Dutty, thanks for the laugh. That was great!


  5. Since it's a given fact that Adderall/Claritin D mirror the certain aspects of meth, let's accept that as a given (and oh yeah, they're both legal) and think about this:

    Here’s why I think Mayfield will be vindicated in Court, it’s gonna go something like this:

    Lawyer: “Nascar did you make your drivers aware of the banned subtances in your drug policy?”

    Nascar: “Ummm…no. We’re Nascar we do whatever the hell we want. We did mention that we test for drugs, but we didn’t say what the banned substances are…”

    Lawyer: “I see. So, tell us again how a driver is supposed know which legal drugs he’s NOT supposed to do or risk suspension, fines, etc?”

    Nascar: “Well, he can’t know—we sorta make it up (like other rules we have) as we go along…But we do tell our drivers to tell our drug czar what drugs he’s taking just in case we need to make a point and show how powerful we are…”

    Lawyer: “Ummm…okay, you’re control freaks and like to put the fear of God in people…Okay we get that…So, tell us again how a driver can violate a policy that has no parameters?”

    Nascar: “They can’t—that’s the point…”

    Lawyer: “Judge?”

    Judge: “Case dismissed. Nascar you now owe Mr Mayfield not only an apology, but a brickload of money for loss of income, reputation, etc…Who do you think you are anyway?”

    Nascar: “We’re Nascar, we do whatever the hell we want AND we’ll going to appeal this to own puppet appellate board and get this bogus decision overturned…And Judge? You’re banned from coming to our events…for life or $200,000 fine, which suits our fancy.”

    And that’s why Nascar will lose in Court, not NC Court—which is awe of nascar, but in Federal Court, where the only awe is the Court. You can’t have a policy without telling drivers what the details of that policy are…It may work for them inside Nascar, but in the real world their “law” ain't exactly the "law," especially given that unlike other sports, the policy was never bargained into agreement.

  6. If NASCAR had said all along that it was three drugs, and two were excused, then I'd give NASCAR the credit Jerry is for having some plausible (albiet false)reason for their accusations.

    There were too many versions of NASCAR's story before the "three drugs" version and before the two sources named methamphetamines.

    I know Jerry's said NASCAR's been quiet, but that didn't seem to be the case to all of us hearing Brian France's (slurred)speches, Helton on "NASCAR on Speed" and so on. To Jerry's credit, watching TV isn't anyone's duty or responsibility.

    The progression that there was first one positive result, then positives for two drugs, then back to one drug that was neither of the ones Jeremy actually took, and currently three drugs in the story; especially with the additional quote that "This isn't about amphetamines" makes me doubt NASCAR's credibility in any matter, basically back to when Brian took over...if it isn't about drugs, what is it about NASCAR?

  7. "...especially given that unlike other sports, the policy was never bargained into agreement."

    In other sports, the athletes are unionized, hence the use of collective bargaining agreements and drug tests that are collectively bargained. NASCAR as you well know doesn't have unions, so the drivers are in no position to bargain for anything and are for all intents and purposes independent contractors at the mercy of NASCAR.

    Basically all non-unionized jobs are like that: You work for the company, you are beholden to your employer's drug policy, but you don't bargain for whatever drug testing and policy your employer uses.



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