Ryan McGee, a motorsports writer for ESPN The Magazine, reported on Tuesday that two independent sources claimed that Sprint Cup Series driver/owner Jeremy Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamines at Richmond International Raceway last month in the drug test that led to his indefinite suspension from NASCAR.
Mayfield has asserted his innocence from day one, rounding up a team of lawyers to sue NASCAR. The sanctioning body has since countersued, and the two are expected to face a lengthy battle in court over the coming months. Mayfield, who this year started up his own team and was the sport's feel-good story when he made the field for the Daytona 500, claimed he took nothing more than a prescribed ADHD medication (Adderall XR) and a double dose of the over-the-counter medication Claritin D.
(In the interest of full disclosure, Claritin D is a NASCAR sponsor, featured prominently on Carl Edwards' No. 99 Ford Fusion and in commercials during race telecasts.)
According to the report, the test did find Adderall XR and Claritin D in his system, but it also found a third substance, the name of which had been redacted from court documents. But according to the anonymous sources, that substance was methamphetamine, or meth for short.
Adderall XR is an amphetamine, designed to help with focus and concentration, and has been said to cause positive tests for meth if the dosage was strong enough (or the drug test wasn't terribly advanced). But considering the lab NASCAR uses to conduct the tests is one of the world's foremost testing labs (AEGIS Sciences) -- and the same lab that conducts drug tests for almost all professional sports leagues, the Olympics and 85 NCAA-sanctioned universities -- chances are they can spot the difference between amphetamines and methamphetamines.
If true, this backs up NASCAR lawyer Paul Hendrick's assertion that Mayfield tested positive for a "dangerous, illegal banned substance." Neither NASCAR nor Mayfield could respond to Tuesday's report, due to a gag order placed by the court in lieu of the next court date (which has yet to be determined).
If this report is true, and at this point I don't really have any reason to believe it isn't, this effectively ends Mayfield's career -- as it should. Auto racing is no place for recreational or performance-enhancing drugs; the whole reason NASCAR changed its drug-testing policy last summer was because of Aaron Fike's 2007 admission that he once drove in a Camping World Truck Series race while high on heroin.
And really, is being hopped up on meth any worse?
Driving a car at speeds approaching 200 mph inches from your nearest competitors is hard enough for someone who is of sound mind and body; throw drugs into the mix, and the danger is raised exponentially. When Martin Truex Jr. passed on taking painkillers when he passed a kidney stone the night before this year's Atlanta race, it was for that very reason; he didn't want the medication to impair him inside the car and possibly endanger his fellow competitors.
A certain amount of trust is needed in this sport; when you dive into a corner at 185 mph inches from the other guy, you have to trust that he knows you're there and won't do anything to needlessly endanger you. If Mayfield was using meth, and it was still in his system when he was in the car, that trust has been violated.
What if Mayfield had hurt or killed someone? What if his drug use contributed to an accident that left another driver or fans injured ... or worse? It might not seem all that likely, but auto racing is unpredictable that way. Who could've foreseen Edwards flying into the catchfence at Talladega a couple months back? Who could've imagined that February 2001 crash at Daytona killing Dale Earnhardt?
You just never know.
If Mayfield was indeed taking meth (and given his track record, I see no reason to believe him), he doesn't deserve to be reinstated. Ever. Drugs and NASCAR don't mix, and they never will. Besides, if Mayfield was indeed being prescribed Adderall, why didn't he tell NASCAR beforehand? Why wait until it was his turn to be tested? That seems like something I'd be telling NASCAR before the season even started, with documentation and everything.
Mayfield needs help more than anything else, and I hope he gets it, but if I were in charge of NASCAR, I would never let him back behind the wheel. With all of NASCAR's safety advances over the past eight years, letting Mayfield back, even after a stint in rehab, would fly in the face of all those advancements.
Now, with all that said ... I don't know about you, but I can't wait until this weekend, where we can actually get to racing again.