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Mayfield, NASCAR go to court over drug testing

- frkelly@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, May. 29, 2009

An attorney for NASCAR told a judge Friday that owner/driver Jeremy Mayfield was suspended for testing positive for a “dangerous illegal” drug.

Details about the results have remained a secret since May 9 when Mayfield became the first competitor in the sport's top division to be suspended under new drug-testing rules.

More information emerged during a Mecklenburg County court hearing related to a lawsuit Mayfield filed Friday.

Superior Court Judge Forrest D. Bridges denied Mayfield's request for a temporary order that would allow him to return to racing. Bridges also ordered both sides not to publicly discuss the drug test.

Mayfield's suit alleges NASCAR did not follow proper testing procedures and failed to give him a chance to prove his innocence. Court documents include NASCAR's substance abuse policy, offering the first public glimpse into the drug testing rules.

NASCAR attorney Paul Hendrick said the outcome of the court case could have far-reaching implications.

“We can't allow people to drive on the track who have issues relative to drug abuse” or a failed drug test, Hendrick said in court. “If every driver with a positive test came to court for a (temporary restraining order), we would be out of business.”

Bridges scheduled a Wednesday hearing for both sides to present evidence. He said there was no need to overturn the suspension immediately because Mayfield's team is not competing this weekend.

Mayfield has been a professional driver for 17 years and is the principal owner of Mayfield Motorsports Inc.

The Sprint Cup Series team owned by Mayfield has withdrawn from this weekend's Autism Speaks 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

The team's hauler did not show up Thursday evening and at 10 a.m. Friday its absence made the team's entry officially withdrawn, NASCAR officials said.

The team did not return a call for comment.

Mayfield was among three people - the other two were crew members - who were indefinitely suspended earlier this month for violation of the substance abuse policy. All three took random tests administered a week before their suspensions were announced.

Since then, NASCAR has refused to publicly divulge the name of the specific substance it says was found in Mayfield's urine sample. Chairman Brian France had indicated Mayfield used a recreational drug.

On Friday, attorneys for Mayfield and NASCAR gave differing accounts of what the test results showed.

Attorneys for Mayfield said NASCAR told him he tested positive for amphetamines. They told a judge the driver had been taking medication for allergies and an attention deficit disorder drug, Adderall.

But Hendrick , the NASCAR attorney, said Mayfield tested positive for three drugs. Hendrick said officials threw out two because Mayfield had an explanation.

Hendrick said the third drug is “a dangerous illegal substance,” but did not name it. At one point, Hendrick said, “This case is not about amphetamines.”

Test results show high levels of the drug, he said. “Use of it represents one the most serious violations possible,” Hendrick said.

Mayfield's lawsuit includes allegations of breach of contract and unfair and deceptive trade practices. It seeks damages from several defendants, including NASCAR and Aegis Sciences Corp., which conducted the drug test.

Attorneys for Mayfield said NASCAR did not give him a fair chance to dispute the test results.

When he learned about the positive test, they said he offered to submit another urine sample, but officials refused.

Aegis tested two urine samples belonging to Mayfield, the suit states. Federal guidelines, the suit claims, require Aegis to send the second sample to another lab for testing.

“We have shown you they did it wrong,” said Bill Diehl, who represents Mayfield. “They have eliminated the opportunity to say it was an erroneous test.”

In September, NASCAR announced it would adopt a random drug-testing policy for its drivers, over-the-wall pit crew members and NASCAR officials beginning this season. NASCAR's previous policy permitted testing any time officials had a “reasonable suspicion.”

The new policy mandated that all drivers in NASCAR's three national series - Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck - would be tested early in the season.

NASCAR came under scrutiny during 2008 after a public admission by former Truck series driver Aaron Fike - who was indefinitely suspended under the former substance-abuse policy - during an interview with ESPN The Magazine that he used heroin, including on days he raced.

Typically, the substance abuse policy is only distributed to people with a NASCAR license.

The policy lists behaviors that could trigger suspicion of drug use, including accidents during events, chronic forgetfulness or broken promises, and deteriorating personal hygiene or appearance.

The policy does not specifically list which drugs are banned. Prohibited substances are those that in NASCARs determination "may affect adversely the safety and well-being" of competitors, officials or spectators, including "but not limited to illegal drugs."

"NASCAR may make this determination with respect to a particular substance at any time," the policy states.

A rule governing alcohol says competitors and officials cannot drink on the day of an event.

Jim Utter and Bob Henry contributed to this article.

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