Tuesday, June 2, 2009
NASCAR moves case to federal court
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR on Tuesday moved Jeremy Mayfield's challenge of his indefinite suspension to federal court, a move that could keep the driver out of his car another week.
The notification came a day before a North Carolina Superior Court was scheduled to hear arguments pertaining to Mayfield's suspension for failing a random drug test. NASCAR's action automatically stayed that proceeding.
Mayfield had hoped a judge would reinstate him in time to compete this weekend at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. His attorneys will now have to either fight the suspension in federal court, or petition the case be moved back to the state level.
No date was set for a hearing in federal court, but NASCAR believes that's the correct venue to argue the case.
"Administration of NASCAR's substance abuse policy extends to every state in which it races, which is why the logical forum is federal court," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said.
Mayfield was suspended May 9 for failing a random drug test conducted eight days earlier at Richmond International Raceway. His suspension applies to both his role as driver and owner of the No. 41 Toyota for Mayfield Motorsports.
J.J. Yeley has driven the car since Mayfield's suspension, but Mayfield did not send his team to last weekend's race in Dover, Del. Instead, his attorneys went to court Friday, arguing the suspension should be lifted because NASCAR did not follow its drug-testing policies and left Mayfield with no way to prove his innocence.
North Carolina Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges did not immediately rule on Mayfield's challenge last week because his absence from Dover removed any sense of urgency.
NASCAR has not revealed what substance Mayfield tested positive for, but his attorneys said in court he tested positive for amphetamines.
Bridges told both sides not to discuss Mayfield's test results.
Mayfield's attorneys argued in court last week that his positive test result stemmed from the combined use of Adderall for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Claritin-D for allergies.
But NASCAR attorney Paul Hendrick said in court that three drugs were found in Mayfield's system, and the Adderall and Claritin-D were accounted for in the results. He described the third as a "dangerous, illegal, banned" substance, but did not name it.
No toxicology reports were submitted by either Mayfield or NASCAR, and the gag order has prevented further elaboration on Hendrick's claim.
Mayfield is seeking damages against NASCAR for defamation, discrimination against someone with a disability and for negligence in not handling the drug test properly. He specifically named in his suit NASCAR chairman Brian France and Dr. David Black, the administrator of NASCAR's drug-testing program, for comments they have made about the case.
"France and Black made such statements out of spite, personal ill will and personal malice toward Mayfield with the express intention of damaging his personal and business reputation and making him an example of NASCAR's power to suspend a driver/team owner, based upon numerous violations of its flawed drug policy," he claimed.
Also listed as defendants are: NASCAR; Aegis Sciences Corp., which conducts the sport's drug testing; and Douglas F. Aukerman, the program's medical review officer.
Mayfield has insisted that the mix of a prescription drug with over-the-counter allergy medication led to his positive test May 1. In addition, Mayfield -- when asked whether he had used any inhalants -- even mentioned that he inhaled a significant amount of fumes after being involved in a fiery wreck at Talladega in late April, according to the lawsuit.
Black has repeatedly rejected Mayfield's explanation.
Mayfield is the first driver to be suspended under NASCAR's new drug policy. Six crew members have been suspended spanning NASCAR's top three series.
NASCAR toughened its testing policy this season, in part because former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to using heroin, even on days he raced. It led the sanctioning body to implement mandatory preseason testing for all drivers and crews, as well as random testing throughout the season.
Previously, NASCAR tested only on reasonable suspicion. Now, at least four drivers, 10 crew members 2 NASCAR officials from its three national series are tested at every event.