I guess it's a good thing NASCAR drivers are so unsure when discussing the effects of drug usage. It shows how clean the sport has been during the drug era. However, the Jeremy Mayfield case has proven that NASCAR needs to be a little more proactive in education about the issue.
Almost all the drivers interviewed at Daytona this week about the Mayfield suspension issue said in one way or another that they weren't sure what they were talking about. One might think after several weeks of having to discuss it that drivers and officials would bone up on the subject of illegal drugs in the sport.
Or maybe it's just a way of not having to discuss it. Either way, with a judge's ruling this week that Mayfield could resume driving on the Sprint Cup level until his appeal is heard, it's clear the issue isn't going away soon.
The judge's ruling is understandable. Mayfield's reputation and career are taking a huge hit, and while there still is a question of whether he had methamphetamine in his system, he deserves the right to work -- but only if he continues to pass drug tests.
Nearly every driver interviewed this week said a clean Mayfield on the track would be no concern, but it has to be 100 percent certain that he is.
"I am confident that when he does come back to the track that he will be taking a test, and at that point everyone should be breathing easily," Jimmie Johnson said. "If guys are sober on the race track, then that is all we are after."
Veteran Mark Martin agrees.
"I'm just not concerned with being on the race track with Jeremy. None whatsoever," Martin said. "I'm not concerned with that. I feel 100 percent confident being on the racetrack side by side with Jeremy. That doesn't mean that he didn't fail. I don't know what happened. OK? I'm just saying that if he races, I have no problem."
Here, though, is where the problems begin. Can a driver take a NASCAR-mandated drug test on a Friday morning and hit the track that afternoon for practice with a clean slate? No, test results are not that speedy. What if he gets tested earlier in the week and is cleared to drive? Some drivers aren't sure if that's enough.
"If it takes 72 hours -- and nothing against Jeremy, I consider Jeremy a friend of mine -- but 72 hours from him being on the racetrack, if that's how long it takes to get a result, then he should be tested," Jeff Burton said. "And 24 hours after that he should be tested again, and 24 hours after that he should be tested again, and 24 hours after that he should be tested again.
"I don't consider that harassment. The fact of the matter is that he failed a drug test and that opens the door to question. I deserve to 100 percent know that he is 100 percent clean, and so he should be tested soon enough, early enough, often enough to where he can never be on the racetrack while he is using drugs."
NASCAR, in its drug policy, reserves the right to test any driver or crew member any time it wants without notice, which adds considerable muscle to its enforcement. It obviously, though, doesn't have full power to keep somebody off the track, even after a positive test. That irked several drivers.
"I do have a problem with NASCAR not being able to say you can't (drive)," Martin said. "That is a problem for our sport. They need to be the authority. They need to be able to say if you do or if you don't. They need to be responsible with it, and careful with it, but they need to have the say."
Though, like the drivers, I'm no expert on drugs, those who are say that it is virtually impossible for Mayfield, or anyone, to drive a race car and be hooked on meth and not be noticed.
Meth, you may have read, is arguably the most addictive drug in existence. It's not a martini at lunch or something you try once at a party. You do it, you get hooked. You don't race a car or interact with people on a normal basis. My first thought when I heard he had been tested positive for meth was how did people not know. We've all seen the photos of meth heads. Can't say that Jeremy Mayfield fit the mold.
So, clearly, something is amiss here.
And if Mayfield's test is innacurate -- and it's tested positive three times now -- then what happens to his driving career? Four low-level teams this week turned him down as a driver. He can't find sponsors for his own team. Even if cleared by the courts, does Mayfield have a career left?
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...