Does Mayfield decision affect NASCAR authority?

July, 2, 2009
07/02/09
10:58
AM ET

Jeremy Mayfield's reinstatement to NASCAR competition Wednesday by a federal judge in Charlotte, N.C., is the most bewildering non-fatal development I can recall in the industry -- including the embarrassing 2008 racial and sexual discrimination suit filed by former official Mauricia Grant.

Why? This decision emasculates the sanctioning body like never before.

It means a driver who NASCAR officials claim they know is a methamphetamine abuser can race on their racetrack, on their watch, at 200 mph if he so desires.

And in the process, rub their nose in it.

And they can do nothing whatsoever about it, other than test him incessantly, which the judge says is their prerogative.

NASCAR is free enterprise. It's open to anyone who has a fast car and can pay the entrance fee. In the wake of Judge Graham Mullen's decision, that now includes a driver the sanctioning body suspended for testing positive for methamphetamine.

I can't imagine the rage coursing through NASCAR president Mike Helton's blood right now. I can't imagine the shock CEO Brian France experienced when Mullen said the harm to Mayfield's reputation was worse than the harm to the sport.

For decades NASCAR has been an "our sandbox" entity: Do it our way or find another place to play. That may have now changed.

NASCAR isn't accustomed to being beaten. Don't forget, it was NASCAR that requested the case be moved to federal court.

Since May 9, when Mayfield was initially suspended, transparency was the key concern about NASCAR's drug policy. There was no specific banned-substances list, and the organization chose not to divulge the drug for which Mayfield tested positive.

That raises the question: Should NASCAR, then, revamp its policy to be more definitive as a result of this decision?

NASCAR doesn't plan to do so at this time. Spokesman Ramsey Poston told ESPN.com on Thursday that NASCAR continues to believe in its policy. He also noted that the policy was not questioned by the judge.

He did say, though, that "after this is all over and the dust settles, we'll go back and see if there are things we can make even stronger. But for now we will continue to administer the plan, which is the best in sports."

Some people think that when Mayfield does get back to the track, NASCAR will make the technical-inspection process hell for his team. I'd say Mayfield's attorneys will be watching that very closely.

Again, it's a whole new ballgame now.

Quite frankly, most everyone in the industry -- other than Mayfield and his representation -- believed Wednesday's injunction hearing was nothing more than a formality.

We were wrong. It is now a precedent -- and not just for NASCAR. This could have an impact throughout the entire sporting world.

Drug use is not pervasive in NASCAR and -- this is key -- this decision is only temporary. The big-boy stuff is yet to come.

But guess what the next driver or crewmember busted for drugs will do.

Sue.

It may have seemed a bit irrational before. But it's the world we live in.

And this time it worked.

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