Jeremy Mayfield is a drug user.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what he did to earn that label. A week after it was announced he tested positive for a “banned substance” and thus suspended indefinitely, the mystery surrounding Mayfield and NASCAR’s silence has grown.
Mayfield still insists his positive test was a result of a mixture of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. All we get from NASCAR is that whatever Mayfield had in his system was serious enough to make the driver the first Sprint Cup regular suspended under NASCAR’s tough policy.
Could be marijuana. Could be cocaine. Could be methamphetamine.
Could be way too much Claritin.
What’s sad is that, unless someone leaks the information, we may never know. Until then, Mayfield’s career is over. Even if NASCAR reinstates him after counseling, and even considering he owns the team he drives for, name me a sponsor who would commit millions to be associated with Mayfield’s team.
It’s enough to make other drivers speak out, not in Mayfield’s defense but because the stigma associated with a positive test is so damaging. Drivers want it made public why Mayfield was banned.
“There should not be a mystery out there,” Ryan Newman said. “This should be public knowledge. If we’re going to do what’s good for the sport, which is also what’s good for kids that are out there that look up to NASCAR drivers, they should know what not to do.
“I don’t know the whole story for what’s happened. Knowing what the penalty is, knowing what caused the situation is extremely important.”
Of course, Mayfield could speak up, but since he’s already proclaimed his innocence, saying something different now would also make him a liar.
NASCAR’s reasoning for not revealing the drug in question is a bit vague. Imagine that.
“The reason we don’t reveal the substance is because our policy says the misuse or abuse of any substance is a violation,” Poston said. “The substance is irrelevant. What’s important is that a drug, under a positive test, a drug has been misused or abused.”
But drugs do not all fall under one category, which is why drivers are so upset.
NASCAR’s zero-tolerance policy does have its merits. Unlike other professional sports (are you listening, Major League Baseball?), NASCAR has made it clear that if you dope, you will pay the ultimate price. For a driver to knowingly ingest something illegal, knowing the penalty, is basically to forfeit a career.
On the other hand, with baseball’s powerful union behind him, Manny Ramirez gets a 50-game vacation. He will return, albeit with a tarnished image, and resume making millions. Unless I’m wrong, Mayfield will have to find a new line of work.
NASCAR needs only to look at the sad case of Kevin Grubb to realize that drivers are human and, as we’re continually reminded, humans make mistakes. Grubb, a driver in the truck series, was banned for a positive test and his once-promising career was over.
He was found dead in a Richmond motel two weeks ago, a self-inflicted gunshot wound the cause. We’ll never know what role losing his career played, but it’s not a long shot to believe it was significant.
Was NASCAR wrong to ban him? No. But what kind of follow-up program did NASCAR have for Grubb? Was he monitored and given every possible resource to recover, or was he discarded like an old tire?
Like everything else with NASCAR, we don’t know, just as we won’t know the details surrounding Mayfield. Sometimes silence isn’t golden.
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 ...