Is Jeremy Mayfield a Victim of a NASCAR Conspiracy?

Christopher LeoneSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 17:  Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the #41 Big Red Toyota drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 17, 2009 in Avondale, AZ.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR shocked the world on May 9 by suspending longtime Sprint Cup Series driver Jeremy Mayfield for becoming the first driver to have a positive test under the sanctioning body’s new drug policy.

Over the course of the past two months, that positive test has resulted in multiple instances of NASCAR and Mayfield throwing each other under the bus, more lawsuits than some lawyers will see all year, and plenty of disillusionment all around, especially to the passionate race fan who just wants to see cars race one another.

As this issue drags on and on, it’s not hard to get sick of both sides: NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston floating out allegations of Mayfield being a methamphetamine addict, and Mayfield and his attorneys flinging mud right back, accusing the sanctioning body of instituting a shoddy drug policy and program administrator Dr. David Black of mishandling urine samples.

They’ve stopped short of claiming that NASCAR is conspiring against Mayfield, but the accusation isn’t a giant leap away.

Mayfield himself had been keeping quiet through the majority of the past two months, only issuing a statement after the first positive test claiming that it was a false positive, and addressing reporters after US Chief District Judge Graham Mullen issued an injunction overturning Mayfield’s suspension.

Over the past week, however, he’s begun to address all of NASCAR’s claims directly, through Sirius NASCAR Radio and a phone interview with the Associated Press.

Listening to Mayfield’s claims, and assuming that Mayfield is in the right (as he so adamantly claims to be), we may be witnessing the greatest conspiracy in professional sports’ history.

If Mayfield is to be believed, one can logically conclude that NASCAR is relying on sheer force, lies, and deep pockets to permanently force him out of the sport he loves.

Until Mayfield’s second positive test, it was hard for anyone to believe that NASCAR was lying. Why would a sanctioning body take such desperate measures (which, if unsuccessful, could tarnish the entire organization) just to get rid of one guy?

There simply seemed to be two different versions of the truth, neither more valid than the other. Mayfield’s claims were legitimate in nature, as were NASCAR’s.

Developments since Mullen’s injunction, however, have thrown the sanctioning body into question. First, they took an extra few days to process Mayfield’s most recent A sample.

Then, they refused to let Mayfield have the B sample tested at the location of his choosing, a right that Mayfield insists he has, under the premise that the sample belongs to the donor.

Now, NASCAR claims that Mayfield’s latest test, as issued by them on July 6, was not only positive, but also heavily diluted, suggesting a deliberate attempt to flaunt the test.

Mayfield responded by saying that he had taken multiple tests that day, and has been independently tested at least twice a week for the past couple of weeks, and that everything has come back negative.

What is especially off-putting about NASCAR’s latest claim of a positive test is how long they waited to announce the results, a full nine days after said test was administered. A drug test normally takes Black’s Nashville-based Aegis Sciences Corp. about four days to process, according to a July 11 AP report.

It’s hard to fathom, especially given the high-profile nature of this issue, that NASCAR wouldn’t have submitted a true positive as evidence immediately upon receiving the results of said test (interestingly enough, they waited until after Mayfield’s last remaining sponsor suggested that they might be able to fund the driver for next weekend’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

Looking at the situation rationally, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for Mayfield to lie.

Given that his ultimate goal is to get back on the track, and given that telling lies in sworn affidavits would only bring him further away from that goal, it just doesn’t make any sense for him to mislead the courts. Especially given the David-vs.-Goliath nature of the fight, one false statement could easily be used as grounds to give Mayfield the boot forever.

While Jeremy Mayfield may have no reason to lie, however, he suggests that his “father’s wife” (he refuses the term “stepmother”), Lisa Mayfield, has plenty of reason to. He suggests that she has unsuccessfully tried to get money out of him in the past.

To that end, he believes that NASCAR paid her to sign a sworn affidavit that she witnessed him using methamphetamines at least 30 times in the past decade.

Add this one to the conspiracy file, too: Brian France has said in the past that other drivers have had positive tests come back in the past. If that is indeed the case, and if the tests in question were administered under this current drug policy, then why would the sanctioning body target one guy and protecting others?

Assuming that Mayfield’s attorneys could get a hold on those tests, and assuming they were of a “serious” nature similar to Mayfield’s test, where would the sanctioning body be then?

I’ve written about the dislike for Mayfield in the garage area before. He’s been a black sheep ever since the Ray Evernham scandal in 2006, if not earlier. He’s always been a polarizing figure, and not in a way that the sanctioning body could exploit to sell merchandise, as Dale Earnhardt always was and remains today.

Could NASCAR be banking on a long history of sanctioning bodies proving victorious against athletes in court? Certainly.

As David Caraviello’s recent column documents, there’s a long history of leagues like the NFL and NBA successfully defending themselves against anti-trust lawsuits, and that NASCAR has a history of simply settling with its accusers out of court.

But this case is much different than anything that any professional sport has ever seen before, for a plethora of reasons. Sure, plenty of leagues have seen players sue to try and join the league in question, usually underclassmen in college, but no league has ever seen a player sue to try and overturn a drug-related suspension.

It’s also hard to think of a professional sports-related case where so much of people’s private lives, specifically those of the Mayfields, have been aired out for public consumption.

Mayfield’s response to his stepmother’s claims has been to file a wrongful death lawsuit over his father’s 2007 passing, insisting that it wasn’t a suicide as officially ruled but that Lisa Mayfield had a hand in it. Waiting two years to file that suit is certainly questionable, but it’s certainly not the most questionable accusation in this saga.

It’s interesting to consider NASCAR as the side in the wrong, just because so many people are so adamant that Mayfield is a drug addict. His polarizing nature only helps NASCAR in that aspect. But Mayfield’s lawyers were able to get him an injunction before, suggesting that their version of the truth made more sense than NASCAR’s, especially with the sport’s drug policy as flawed as it is.

Brian France isn’t a man to easily admit that he’s wrong, however, and that attitude has always prevailed within the France family. Remember when the Teamsters tried to organize a drivers’ union back in the late 1960s, when Big Bill France announced, “I have a pistol, and I know how to use it”?

NASCAR has the power to, even when it is in the wrong, bully its way to absolution. Losing a fight, especially one that’s as big as this one, would be a major threat to the credibility and absolute control of the powers that be.

Plainly stated, NASCAR likes its control, and if they have to lie, cheat, and steal to maintain it, history suggests that they might.

Whatever the resolution to this case is, it’s safe to say that Jeremy Mayfield and NASCAR will both fight this case to the death. If Mayfield’s been dishonest, then keep him off the track for good. That’s only fair.

If NASCAR’s been lying, though, let’s hope that Mayfield wins the war, is publicly absolved, and gets a settlement big enough to get him back on track.

May justice be served.