Friday, June 5, 2009
NASCAR countersues Mayfield
By David Newton
LONG POND, Pa. -- NASCAR filed a countersuit against Jeremy Mayfield on Friday, accusing the suspended Sprint Cup driver of willfully violating the substance abuse policy, breach of contract and defrauding competitors of earnings.
The suit stated that Mayfield knowingly participated in sanctioned competition using a combination of drugs in violation of the substance abuse policy that he agreed to follow.
"And in doing so violated his contract with NASCAR and the standards of care for other drivers," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said from Pocono Raceway.
Mayfield was suspended on May 9 for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy after failing a random drug test taken a week earlier.
He then hired Charlotte, N.C.-based attorney Bill Diehl and made charges against the governing body ranging from defamation of character to discrimination against someone with a disability (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Mayfield's attorneys argued in an open court hearing, in which they sought a temporary restraining order to get the driver back on the track, that Mayfield's positive test was the result of taking Adderall prescribed for ADHD and Claritin-D for allergies.
NASCAR revealed in court that Mayfield tested positive for three drugs, two of which were explained (Adderall and Claritin-D) and amphetamines. Attorney Paul Hendrick described the drug as a dangerous, illegal, banned substance.
"You will see in [the lawsuit] he competed in a number of races that had we known he had been on a medication he was on and certainly known there were illegal substances involved we wouldn't have allowed him to compete," Poston said.
According to Poston, drivers are required in their contract with NASCAR to notify Dr. David Black, who runs the drug testing program at AEGIS Lab in Tennessee, of any prescription drugs they are taking.
The suit alleged that Mayfield did not notify anybody with NASCAR that he was on a prescription drug until the May 1 drug test, and that Mayfield already had participated in two races while on the drug.
The suit said that Mayfield crashed in three of the five races in which he competed this season, including races in which he was under the influence of the drug he failed to report to NASCAR, a combination of drugs and the illegal drug that was blacked out in the suit.
The suit also said Mayfield earned more than $150,000 in those races that would have gone to other competitors. Poston pointed to the loss of income by other competitors when asked if NASCAR sought financial damages in the suit.
Poston would not comment about Adderall or amphetamines. North Carolina Superior Judge Forrest Bridges placed a gag order on both sides from discussing details of the substances last Friday.
Poston also would not say whether Adderall is considered a banned substance on NASCAR's list. But in the countersuit there are two paragraphs, one referring to an illegal drug that is blacked out and another to a drug that also is on the banned list.
"NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy prohibits excessive levels of [blacked out]," the suit said. "[Blacked out] use suppresses fatigue, increases alertness, enhances psychomotor performance, and produces euphoria.
"Mild [blacked out] produces insomnia, increased blood pressure and pulse rate, excitation, hyperactive reflexes, and palpitations. More serious side effects include paranoia, aggressive behavior and psychosis.''
The policy also states that "to the extent that the use of any substance, including properly prescribed prescription drugs and properly over-the-counter medicines, causes a competitor or official to have a competitive advantage or diminished or impaired ability to perform his or her duties on the day of an event, those substances shall be deemed to be prohibited substances for the purposes of this policy."
The suit states that Mayfield signed an agreement to abide by the sanctioning body's policy on February 5.
"Mayfield's willful misconduct at the track in which he competed while an illegal substance was still in his system is evidence he presented a danger to himself and others," Poston said.
John Buric, one of Mayfield's attorneys, was surprised by the countersuit.
"The gloves are off and we're going to be in a fight,'' he said.
Buric contended that Mayfield wasn't required to notify NASCAR he was on any drug because the policy does not identify what drugs are banned.
"If they are trying to contend that Adderall is somehow an illegal drug that violates the policy, that is their argument,'' he said. "They seem to be arguing we did not report that to anybody, although we did.''
No date has been set on the next hearing. It will be at least two weeks after NASCAR had Wednesday's hearing moved from state to federal court because the federal judge is on vacation.
Mayfield's attorneys had hoped to have a temporary restraining order granted on Wednesday that would lift the suspension and allow the driver to compete this weekend at Pocono.
"It's sort of like when somebody files bankruptcy,'' Diehl said earlier in the week. "It doesn't matter if I am OK with it or not, they did it.''
Mayfield initially filed for the restraining order last Friday. But since it already was too late for him to compete at Dover, Judge Bridges scheduled another hearing for Wednesday to give NASCAR attorneys more time to prepare.
Hendrick said his firm was not notified of the initial hearing until about 5 p.m. the day before.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.