ANDY CAGLE: Let's Be Clear: NASCAR Needs to Define Drug Policy
"I've been thrown out of much nicer places than this."
He didn't say it. But, Lord, I wish he would have. That would have been about the only thing that would have made the whole Jeremy Mayfield fiasco at Lowe's Motor Speedway last week better.
In case you missed it -- and if you are reading this, I doubt you have -- Mayfield was ejected from the speedway last week after being suspended indefinitely from NASCAR competition the week before following a failed drug test. Mayfield attracted a throng of reporters, who descended upon the erstwhile owner/driver like a flock of ravenous seagulls (can seagulls be ravenous?) from their perch in the media center upon learning that he was in the hospitality area of the track's infield.
Mayfield contends that the failed drug test was a result of a combination of a prescription drug and an over-the-counter allergy medicine. Claritin-D is the drug whose name was been bandied around in connection with Mayfield, which I find to be odd since Claritin is a NASCAR sponsor and has Carl Edwards shilling their product talking about driving "Claritin clear." Wouldn't that be quite embarrassing for NASCAR if one of their products was on their banned subject list?
Problem with that is that no one really knows what is on the banned substance list. Drivers, including Mayfield, contend they have have never seen one. Mark Martin and Jeff Burton have reservations about getting prescription meds filled because they don't want to end up on the wrong end of a NASCAR drug test.
"If you should test positive for over-the-counter medications or a prescribed medication that you are on with your doctor, that doesn't result in NASCAR suspending you," NASCAR chairman Brian France told the Associated Press, shooting down Mayfield's explanation. "You will be asked to explain why you have a certain substance that was identified in a test. That's happened a lot, and it doesn't get you a suspension."
So what is the truth?
Mayfield insists he is not going to rehab because he doesn't have a drug problem and has retained the services of Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl in anticipation of any litigation against NASCAR. NASCAR's drug czar Dr. David Black insists that Mayfield's test results are a clear violation of NASCAR's drug policy.
I am all for NASCAR having a drug policy and enforcing it. In and around a racetrack is the last place you would want to encounter someone hopped up on anything that would impair ability to safely perform job functions. I think this year's implementation has been a long time coming.
The problem that I have is that NASCAR needs to be very up front with their competitors about what is allowed and what is not. I mentioned earlier a "banned substance list." Are we sure such a list exists? Because none of the racers interviewed in connection to this story had any idea what was banned other than the obvious illegal drugs.
Honestly, I hate to have to write about drugs in connection to NASCAR. For the most part the sport has been able to stay out of the drug-related glare that has haunted other sports of the last few years. And it's a shame that it has taken something like this to make Jeremy Mayfield relevant again. Even if he has been thrown out of nicer places.
Andy Cagle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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