Mayfield granted injunction, will race
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Independence Day came a few days early for suspended Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield, as a federal judge granted him a temporary injunction allowing him to race as early as this weekend.
The ruling, made Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte by senior Judge Graham Mullen, lifted Mayfield's suspension for failing NASCAR's substance-abuse policy and allows him to return as the driver/owner of his No. 41 team in time for Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway.
"The truth came out. That's what it's all about," Mayfield said after the decision was announced.
Concluding the "likelihood of a false positive in this case is quite substantial," Mullen said as he ruled in Mayfield's favor after about two hours of arguments, including NASCAR's contention that Mayfield is a danger to the sport after testing positive for high amounts of a dangerous, illegal drug.
Mullen ruled the "harm to Mr. Mayfield significantly outweighs the harm to NASCAR" in issuing the injunction, which doesn't settle the larger civil suit filed by Mayfield or NASCAR's countersuit.
Mayfield said it may be too late in the week to get his car to Daytona by the 8 a.m. deadline on Thursday. He left open the possibility he may drive for Larry Gunselman, who operates a part-time Sprint Cup team out of Mayfield's garage.
"The main thing is we're able to race again," Mayfield said.
Mayfield was suspended on May 9 after failing a random drug test eight days earlier at Richmond International Raceway. During a recess at Wednesday's hearing, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamines. Mayfield has denied using the drug, saying a mix of medications led to the positive test.
It was initially reported that NASCAR would not appeal. However, Poston said later Wednesday: "As for appealing the decision, we are still considering our options."
The ruling also restores Mayfield as driver/owner of his own team. Mayfield's wife, Shana, took over as owner of the team while Mayfield was suspended.
Shana Mayfield burst into tears as the judge announced the decision.
"You can't imagine," Jeremy Mayfield said of his emotions upon hearing the judge had ruled in his favor. "It's huge to us, more than any race I've ever won."
In announcing the decision, Mullen said Mayfield may be subject to whatever drug testing NASCAR deems fit. He said that includes taking hair samples to determine "if he's a meth-head or not."
Poston said Mayfield will be tested on a regular basis, beginning with this weekend at Daytona.
"We are disappointed, but we respect the judge's ruling," Poston said. "This is only a temporary injunction. The legal case continues beyond this point, and we will continue to make our case."
Mayfield has maintained from the start that he did not take methamphetamines. He claimed the positive test was the result of combining prescribed Adderall for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Claritin-D for allergies.
"I have never taken methamphetamines in my life, and when accused of taking them I immediately volunteered to give another urine sample," Mayfield said in an affidavit.
He reiterated those comments on Wednesday, and will continue to fight his case in a lawsuit against NASCAR seeking monetary compensation for the time he missed racing while suspended.
Mayfield said the suspension has cost him sponsorship and forced him to lay off 10 members of his team. He has not attempted to enter the No. 41 team with another driver since the May race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.
Mullen kept his ruling to the temporary injunction, leaving the question of monetary damages to be determined at a later date.
Despite the injunction, the onus remains on Mayfield to create doubt about the test results as he seeks a permanent return to the track and compensation for monetary losses. His attorney, Bill Diehl, said that process could last more than a year.
Diehl said in a 45-minute argument that the evidence was "overwhelming" in favor of his client.
Diehl claimed that NASCAR's drug testing program does not meet federal workplace guidelines or follow proper procedure of SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration].
He argued that Mayfield did not give permission for the "B" sample to be tested after the "A" sample came back positive, as guidelines state, and that the "B" sample should have been tested at an independent laboratory. He said since proper procedure was not used and because the "B" sample was compromised when opened that the entire test should be thrown out.
Both samples originally were tested by Aegis Laboratory, the Nashville, Tenn.-based facility NASCAR employs to run its testing program.
"They must be held accountable," Diehl said of NASCAR and Aegis. "If you don't follow procedure then drug tests are thrown out."
Diehl also argued that NASCAR's policy is unfair because it does not provide a list of all banned substances, as is the case in most other professional sports.
He referred to the governing body as having almost god-like powers, saying "if they decide to ban Coca-Cola or coffee or orange juice or anything else," they can.
"That just smells bad," Diehl said. "And it stinks enough that the court should say 'You can't do that.' "
Diehl also argued that Mayfield has no prior history of drug abuse and that there was no testimony in the affidavits of those who collected the specimen indicating he showed signs of drug use.
He scoffed at NASCAR's charge that methamphetamines have been in Mayfield's system for some time, noting that Mayfield passed a test before the February opener at Daytona. He said if Mayfield had as much methamphetamine in his system as has been insinuated then "he's either a walking zombie or dead."
NASCAR argued there was indisputable evidence that Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamines. Its attorneys said that both of Mayfield's urine samples recently were sent to a second lab, MedTox Laboratories in St. Paul, Minn., and that the results confirmed the original tests.
Diehl said those samples were compromised because they already were open. He again pointed to procedure.
"If they met their own rules they wouldn't have tested either of them because the seal was broken," he said.
NASCAR argued that it is not a federal entity and does not have to follow federal guidelines. The NFL, the NHL and Major League Baseball also allow the "B" sample to be tested by the same lab as the "A" sample. But Diehl noted those organizations have a collective bargaining agreement that requires the testing policy to be approved by union members, while NASCAR has no such agreement.
NASCAR attorneys argued that Mayfield did not notify Dr. David Black or anybody at Aegis that he was on Adderall or Claritin-D until after the positive test, thus not following prescribed guidelines. They pointed out that the prescription for Adderall came from the "Vitality Anti-Aging Center and Medical Spa" and not Mayfield's primary physician.
Mayfield said the Adderall prescription did come from his personal physician and he has evidence to back that up.
Lawyers for NASCAR said allowing Mayfield back on the track before he is completely cleared by physicians would endanger the lives of other drivers, crew members and fans. They presented affidavits from several drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, saying they did not want to compete with somebody known to have tested positive for a banned substance.
Diehl did not argue that point.
"It's almost a 'duh' statement to say they don't want drivers to use drugs," he said.
NASCAR attorneys also argued that the driver contract does not guarantee the right to compete and that Mayfield is not entitled to compensation. They also noted that Mayfield's team has had opportunities to enter races with another driver, as it did two weeks after the suspension with J.J. Yeley.
"While [Mayfield and his team] have not suffered, and will not suffer, any harm that could not be compensated through a monetary award, reversing the suspension would create a real and serious risk of injury or death to others," NASCAR stated in affidavits.
"If other drivers refuse to race, it will harm the relationships that NASCAR has developed with its drivers, fans, sponsors and broadcasters over the last sixty years."
Mullen disagreed, saying "the court finds the harm to Mr. Mayfield significantly outweighs any harm to NASCAR."
Diehl felt he argued his case well enough to win.
"Independence Day for Jeremy ought to be today," he said. "It is a case involving fairness."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.