Friday, May 15, 2009
NASCAR: Serious offense for Mayfield
By David Newton
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR chairman Brian France on Friday put an end to speculation that Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield was indefinitely suspended for anything other than recreational drug.
France hopes drivers questioning what Mayfield took get the message as well.
The head of the sport said the banned substance Mayfield took was a "serious infraction," and defined it as a recreational or performance-enhancing drug. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that it was not a performance-enhancing drug.
Based on that, only a recreational drug would be the substance of discussion. The development again disputes Mayfield's claim that the positive test was the result of combining an over-the-counter drug with a prescription drug.
Dr. David Black, who runs NASCAR's test program, ruled that out immediately.
"I don't think the word serious needs any more definition from me," France said before qualifying for Saturday's All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
France remained adamant that he would not identify the drug and that there are no plans to change NASCAR's policy despite requests by a number of top drivers that the substance be made public.
"If you look back over the last 20 years of our policy we just haven't disclosed that, and let me tell you why," France said. "No. 1, we do take it serious. No. 2, there is a privacy area. We're talking about somebody's medical record and somebody's health record.
"Our view is there is nothing gained by disclosing exactly what the substance was that tested positive in Jeremy's case or anybody else's."
Many drivers disagree, saying they are nervous and looking for answers. Mark Martin called Black earlier this week to make sure anti-inflammatory medicine he takes won't get him parked.
"Dr. Black has been very helpful with things," Martin said. "There's still a bit of gray area there. Everybody is a little bit nervous about that right now. ... The small number of drivers I talk to are on edge right now based on what happened to Jeremy and not knowing."
Martin said he had no idea how involved NASCAR's testing program was until now. He didn't realize the potential to test positive for a prescription or over-the-counter drug.
"I thought this thing was supposed to keep marijuana, cocaine, heroin out of the deal," he said. "That was my assumption of what the drug policy was all about."
Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers said on Thursday they wanted NASCAR to make Mayfield's violation public and provide drivers with a hard list of drugs they're tested for, as is the case in the NFL, NHL and NBA, and on the PGA Tour and in most major sports.
France said teams are supplied a list, although he said that list can change as science changes. He added that Black and his associates have an open line to discuss any questions drivers might have about prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
He said there have been many cases, in which a test has come back positive for those drugs, that have been resolved without suspension when discussed before or after the test.
"We're really after a tough policy that is thorough and puts a very tough deterrent moving forward for anybody who violates that policy," France said.
France added that while there is not an appeals process and there are no plans to add one, failed tests are subject to review by the individual. He said Mayfield is going through that process now.
"We're working with Jeremy to make sure he has all the information he needs," France said.
Mayfield's "A" sample came back positive on Wednesday night. He was informed of the positive test Thursday. But because the test wasn't considered complete until the "B" sample came back, Mayfield was allowed to practice and qualify last Friday at Darlington, France said.
The "B" sample came back Saturday, but France said Mayfield would not have been allowed on the track at all had officials deemed him impaired to the point he could not perform.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.