Just the truth, please
NASCAR's own little theater of the absurd continued Saturday with Jeremy Mayfield as the lead character in this hopelessly nonsensical game of truth or dare.
And it's Mayfield, the alleged bad guy in this drama, who has managed to put NASCAR on the defensive and gained the upper hand in the court of public opinion.
NASCAR is trying to do the right thing with its new and improved drug-enforcement policy. But it has allowed Mayfield to come off as a man wronged, first by failing to reveal the substance involved and second by mistakenly giving him a forum at a NASCAR-sanctioned event.
How did this happen? One week after being suspended indefinitely for a substance-abuse violation, Mayfield bought a ticket and pit pass and strolled right in Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The man even wore a microphone and brought his own videographer, a cameraman and crew to record everything that transpired. Mayfield said it was preplanned before all this happened. Uh, OK.
Mayfield walked right to the National Guard hospitality rig (oh, the irony) and climbed up top, where he then allowed an interview with respected ESPN reporter Marty Smith.
Side note to government officials: Do not allow NASCAR to guard the White House.
Mayfield also held an impromptu news conference with a few reporters, and basically called NASCAR officials liars, along with the head doctor in the testing procedure.
Mayfield maintains he never was told what drug showed up in the positive test, so he may take legal action, and adds that he won't do a rehab assignment because he has nothing to rehab.
NASCAR officials escorted Mayfield off the premises, a little like catching a streaker at a baseball game after he jumps out of the stands and touches all the bases.
NASCAR responded to Mayfield's accusations, saying he was told not once, not twice, but three times what substance he used to cause the suspension.
Does anyone have some soap? I'm starting to feel dirty.
Someone isn't telling the truth. Someone has something to hide.
NASCAR officials say they won't reveal the substance to protect the privacy of the person involved. Mayfield doesn't seem to care. In fact, he's practically daring them to do it.
Mayfield said his positive test result was triggered by a prescription drug (which he hasn't revealed) and Claritin-D. He claims NASCAR is protecting a sponsor (Claritin is a primary sponsor of Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Ford) from possible embarrassment.
Jack Daniels and Budweiser also are car sponsors, but NASCAR wouldn't use those names in a positive test (for alcohol in excessive amounts). The same is true here for pseudoephedrine, the drug in Claritin-D.
This, of course, assumes Mayfield is telling the truth. He better be. If he isn't, he can forget about racing in NASCAR at any level.
Mayfield has gone out of his way to make NASCAR officials look bad and accuse them of deliberate impropriety, something they tend to remember and take personally.
The list is long of athletes in recent years who said one thing and did another. In Mayfield's case, we don't know. The other drivers don't know. They need to know.
Many drivers now are concerned and uncertain about medications. Some fear taking any medicine at all.
Couldn't that be worse? Failing to take a needed medication could endanger a driver and his fellow competitors on a racetrack.
"I need a better understanding of what I can and cannot do," driver Ryan Newman said last week. "The whole system would be fixed if they just told us what Jeremy did."
NASCAR chairman Brian France said last weekend that Mayfield had a "serious violation" and drivers shouldn't be worried about proper use of over-the-counter meds and legal prescriptions.
NASCAR officials also have told drivers to consult Dr. David Black, the physician who heads the Aegis Sciences facility that handles NASCAR's drug testing, if they have a question about any medication.
Drivers want a list of banned substances. NASCAR wants to retain the right to suspend someone for a possible substance they may have overlooked on a list.
Can't you have both?
NASCAR took a major step in the right direction this season by going to random drug testing for its competitors. But any new system is bound to have a few bugs to work out.
This entire sordid mess shows a good plan needs some retooling in order to avoid a sideshow that makes NASCAR look like the villain and enables the alleged offender to take the role of the victim.
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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