NASCAR, as with any motorsport, comes with risks. You're going over 150 miles per hour inches away from 42 other cars. There's wrecks, hard hits, part failures...
Anything, at a moments notice, can go wrong.
But if there's one thing NASCAR drivers should not have to worry about, it is this: "Is the driver racing next to me high on drugs?"
Jeremy Mayfield, according to sources who spoke to ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee, failed his drug test this past May because of methamphetamine.
According to Dictionary.com, methamphetamine is "a central nervous system stimulant, C1 0H1 5N, used clinically in the treatment of narcolepsy, hyperkinesia, and for blood pressure maintenance in hypertensive states. Also widely used as an illicit drug."
This, sadly, isn't the first time a NASCAR driver has been suspended for drug or suspected drug use.
In 2003 and again in 2005, Shane Hmiel tested positive for marijuana and cocaine use, respectively, and was banned for a third and final time in 2006.
Kevin Grubb refused to take tests in both 2004 and 2006, shortly after being reinstated. He committed suicide in May.
Aaron Fike was arrested in 2007, along with his girlfriend Casi, for being in possession of heroin, and later admitted in interviews to previously having a pain pill and heroin addiction. He's banned from NASCAR indefinitely.
Which brings us to Jeremy Mayfield; to this new drug policy where drivers and pit crew members are tested randomly, not just when they're suspected of being under the influence.
"You never assume you're out there racing someone impaired," Ricky Craven told NASCAR Now. "I never did."
Mayfield claims that a mixture of prescription drugs, including Addreall XR to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Claritin D, caused a false positive. McGee told NASCAR Now that while it is possible for this to cause a false positive, he said it was "highly unlikely."
Addreall is a banned substance in the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB).
Mayfield and NASCAR are currently headed to federal court involving the issue, and in this country someone is innocent until proven guilty.
However, my issue is not with Mayfield, but rather with NASCAR.
It bothers me enough that they let someone, Hmiel, come back after failing two drug tests. I'm also bothered by the fact that they allowed Mayfield to race in the May 2 "Crown Royal Presents the Russ Freidman 400" in Richmond, where he finished 35th.
What's a bigger issue, though, is the fact that while the sport is trying to get tougher on it's drug testing policy, they don't have a banned substance list.
That's right—a major sport in the United States is without a list telling its athletes what they can and can not take.
Taking illegal drugs can not be condoned, but NASCAR owes the drivers, crew members, and team owners what NASCAR themselves have banned from this sport. Not only will it clear up confusion competitors have, but it will further help NASCAR catch up to other sports when it comes to their own drug policy.
Jeremy Mayfield was sadly not the first NASCAR driver to fail a drug test. But with drivers and teams continuing to police themselves and others along with the random drug testing now being enforced, the garage area is becoming more and more of a safer place.
As a lifelong fan of this sport, I, like NASCAR itself, hopes Jeremy Mayfield is the last driver or crew member to fail a drug test. And while that may be naive thinking, it's time the sport issues a banned substance list to the drivers, and educates them further on the dangers of illegal drugs.
NASCAR is already doing so much, but they need to continue doing more.
Thanks to Jayski, ESPN, NASCAR Now and Dictionary.com for the information and quotes used in this article.