NASCAR announced on Saturday that Jeremy Mayfield would be suspended indefinitely for violating the sanctioning body's new drug-testing policy. According to NASCAR, Mayfield failed a drug test at Richmond -- though NASCAR wouldn't name the substance for which Mayfield tested positive, it was considered a "drug of concern."
Mayfield claimed in a statement that the combination of a perscription drug with an over-the-counter medication (Claritin D) triggered a false positive. Dr. David Black, who is in charge of overseeing NASCAR's new random-testing policy, said on Monday that such an explanation wasn't viable.
Besides, if Claritin D could trigger a positive drug test, that would effectively kill its sponsorship within the sport.
Mayfield, who already had a checkered past, is the first Sprint Cup driver caught in the new policy. NASCAR once tested drivers and crew members on the basis of "reasonable suspicion," which netted such drivers as Shane Hmiel and Kevin Grubb (who was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Richmond, Va. hotel last weel). But after Aaron Fike admitted to ESPN the Magazine last year that he once raced in the Camping World Truck Series while high on heroin, the sport cracked down and instituted a new policy -- albeit reluctantly.
That policy is working.
Whatever substance Mayfield took, there's no room for it in a sport where you go 200 MPH inches from other competitors. Things become a matter of life and death at those speeds, and you have to be your best mentally and physically. Drugs -- performance-enhancing or otherwise -- don't let you do that.
NASCAR had no choice.
Mayfield was a rising star in the late 1990s, when he drove the No. 12 for Roger Penske. He won three races in that car, including a victory at Pocono in which he punted the unpuntable Dale Earnhardt out of the way. His talent was without question, but Mayfield rubbed teammate Rusty Wallace and some of his crew the wrong way, which eventually led to his exile.
From there, Mayfield joined Kasey Kahne at Evernham Motorsports, driving the No. 19. He won two more races, and twice made the Chase for the Cup. But again, Mayfield butted heads with owner Ray Evernham, and upon his firing, Mayfield sued his former boss and insinuated that Evernham was having a relationship with Erin Crocker, who at the time was a developmental driver with the team.
That Mayfield is the first to get caught by NASCAR's new policy isn't surprising. I don't even care what he tested positive for -- all that matters is, NASCAR took matters into its own hands and made sure Mayfield didn't compromise the safety of everyone else on the race track. Racing is dangerous enough; we don't need drugs making things worse.