Commentary

Mayfield's wild ride far from over

Updated: October 25, 2009, 5:33 PM ET
By Steve Delsohn | ESPN

On the pretty September morning when an "Outside the Lines" crew arrived at Jeremy Mayfield's home in Catawba, N.C., Mayfield stepped outside and said his day had started earlier than he wanted, in a way he hadn't expected.

First came the knock on his door at 5 a.m., then the realization that the people doing the knocking were the police. Mayfield, who has had anything but a calm 2009, said his gut reaction was, "Now what?"

The police said Mayfield's two mules had gotten loose and were roaming around by the highway, chasing cars. The mules were promptly rounded up, so the event was minor. Still, it was an irritation for a guy who doesn't need any more.

Mayfield has not raced since May, when NASCAR suspended him for failing a random drug test. NASCAR later said he had tested positive for methamphetamine. Mayfield could have completed a treatment program and filed for reinstatement, but he not only denied using methamphetamine, he sued NASCAR to get his suspension lifted.

Now his days are often consumed by conference calls with attorneys, court appearances and depositions, and fending off interview requests from reporters. Mayfield talked quite a bit back in the spring and early summer, as NASCAR made accusations, mostly in court filings which ended up making news, and as Mayfield unabashedly fired back. Then he mostly avoided the media for several weeks until he agreed to a sit-down interview with OTL.

Mayfield's property is sprawling and beautiful, with grassy rolling hills and towering pines. But the new home he and his wife, Shana, are building on their land has become another reminder of Jeremy's costly legal battle with NASCAR. Though a significant amount of work has already been done, the house remains unfinished and may stay that way for awhile.

"It's definitely slowed the process down," Mayfield told OTL. "When you are not sure where your future is or where you are going, you tend to tighten up a little bit and do things differently than we used to in the past."

Mayfield was friendly during the course of his day with OTL, but generally disdainful toward the vast media coverage generated so far by his clash with NASCAR. NASCAR is a large and powerful organization, Mayfield is just one driver, and he said that some media seem more concerned with staying on good terms with NASCAR than being objective and fair.

Mayfield has maintained that his positive test for methamphetamine may have resulted from taking Claritin-D for his allergies and the prescription drug Adderall for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. NASCAR has disputed this explanation.

Since Mayfield and his attorneys have squabbled over this and other scientific issues with NASCAR, OTL asked a leading drug-testing expert who is not involved in the case to help viewers understand what is being argued about.

Dr. Anthony Butch is the director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, one of only two labs in the United States certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The lab performs drug testing on U.S. Olympic athletes and players in the NFL and NCAA.

Butch was asked if Adderall can cause someone to test positive for methamphetamine.

"Absolutely not," he said.

Can taking Claritin-D cause someone to test positive for meth?

"No," said Butch. "The active ingredients of Claritin-D will not cause you to be positive for methamphetamine."

Could a combination of Adderall and Claritin-D cause a positive for methamphetamine?

"No, they could never be confused for methamphetamine in a confirmation," he said.

Back in July, however, a federal judge had a different interpretation when he granted an injunction lifting Mayfield's suspension.

U.S. district court judge Graham Mullen said, "the likelihood of a false positive in this case is really quite substantial."

When NASCAR had given Mayfield his urine test in May, it was divided into an A and a B sample. Mayfield testified that NASCAR said both his samples were positive without informing him that his B sample could have been sent to an independent lab. Mayfield said that when he and his attorney asked for his B sample, NASCAR said the seal had already been broken.

Five days after his suspension was lifted, NASCAR struck back, giving Mayfield a second drug test. His suspension was reinstated after NASCAR showed the court that he tested positive for meth a second time. NASCAR also revealed the levels of meth it said were in Mayfield's system, which Mayfield maintains could not have been accurate.

"I'm three times the lethal limit dead, over, how's that happen?" said Mayfield.

But when Butch was shown the court document with Mayfield's test results, he said the levels could be accurate.

"These are levels you find in somebody that's chronically taking methamphetamine and they're very tolerant to its effects," he said. "As you take methamphetamine, like opiates, you develop tolerance to it, so that you have to take higher doses to get the same clinical affects."

Butch also said that someone could have such high levels and still function.

"If you're tolerant to it, yes," he said.

Mayfield said he has taken numerous drug tests at independent labs and none have been positive. But he refused to show OTL any documentation, saying his attorney doesn't want NASCAR to know all the details of his case.

Ultimately the strength of Mayfield's case may be his attack on NASCAR's drug-testing program, which has been heavily scrutinized since 2008 when Aaron Fike revealed he took heroin the same day he drove in a Truck Series race. NASCAR responded this year by testing drivers randomly for the first time, but Butch and other experts say the new program still has several of its old flaws, including no complete list of banned substances, no appeals for drivers who get suspended and not enough transparency on testing protocol and methodology.

What's the danger of not being transparent?

"Well, then you question results," Butch said. "And then you question that things weren't done appropriately, and that leads to suspicions that things are mishandled."

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and Dr. David Black of Aegis Labs, who oversees NASCAR's drug testing, both declined to be interviewed by OTL. Mayfield, the first driver suspended under the new drug-testing program, says NASCAR singled him out in order to send a message.

Mayfield You use me as an example to let everybody know who may have already tested positive for marijuana, cocaine or whatever that they haven't got anybody for, and it puts the fear of God in everybody in the whole sport.

-- Jeremy Mayfield

"You use me as an example to let everybody know who may have already tested positive for marijuana, cocaine or whatever that they haven't got anybody for, and it puts the fear of God in everybody in the whole sport." said Mayfield. "I was a good example, a good pawn who wasn't going to cost them any money at all, I was worth more to them as a failed drug test then I am as a driver/owner for my own team."

Mayfield was asked if he thought this is NASCAR's way of scaring other drivers who may be using into quitting.

"Oh yeah, exactly, for sure without a shadow of doubt that have tested positive either this year or in the past, and this was sending the message to them, saying, 'You better straighten your act up,' without putting them through what they put me through," said Mayfield.

The Mayfield story has taken a number of turns. In July his estranged stepmother, Lisa Mayfield, said in an affidavit filed by NASCAR, "I saw Jeremy use methamphetamine by snorting it up his nose at least 30 times."

Mayfield said, "That's the biggest bunch of crock of you know what that I have ever heard in my life. All lies."

Mayfield claims that Lisa played a role in the death of his father, Terry, who died in 2007 from what was ruled to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Jeremy nevertheless filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Lisa, who declined to be interviewed by OTL. In August, Lisa Mayfield was arrested on Jeremy's property while he and his wife weren't there, but a few employees were. She was charged with public intoxication, simple assault and second-degree trespassing.

In late September, NASCAR filed a motion including testimony from four men who said they saw Mayfield use methamphetamine. One alleged witness was former NASCAR driver David Keith, who is also Mayfield's former brother-in-law. Mayfield told OTL that Keith has hated him since Mayfield and Keith's sister got divorced and Mayfield stopped funding Keith's race team. Mayfield says all four men who testified were best friends, and that all four are lying.

Mayfield's lawsuit against NASCAR is set for a jury trial in September 2010.

Mayfield could win. NASCAR could win. It's very possible the case could end up settled out of court. But one result from this scorching feud seems certain.

Mayfield's career in NASCAR is over.

"I wish I could sit here and say, 'No it's not over,' but realistically I think for sure [it is]," Mayfield said. "I just can't see how I can overcome all the hurdles and obstacles I'd have to overcome now if it was over or the lawsuit ended today, how I could realistically go back and drive a race car in NASCAR, because to do that I would have to have a sponsor or own my own team or find a ride and all those are virtually impossible with the baggage that comes along with me now."

Steve Delsohn is a reporter for "Outside The Lines." He can be reached at stevedelsohn@aol.com.

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