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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seeking opinion: Jeremy Mayfield innocent or guilty

One of the saddest stories in NASCAR is that of former driver Jeremy Mayfield.

At one time, Mayfield had it all. He was a golden boy who brought home six-figure paychecks each week. Today, he not only has lost his job, but his home has been foreclosed upon. He could even lose his freedom as he faces new drug charges.
Jeremy Mayfield
Jeremy Mayfield (Photo credit: nascar20guy)

It is all about illegal drugs. It is about NASCAR. It is about the justice system which is seemingly skewed in favor of those who can afford to win. It is about the secrecy, lawyers, confidentiality, and clout. It means that the general public should not take sides without knowing all the facts. And the facts are purposefully kept from the public, a practice I abhor.

There are clearly two sides to this story; neither of which is probably completely true. This is a case that reconciles my belief that truth is in the eye of the beholder. It illustrates another of my long subscribed beliefs; in our system of justice, there are no winners. Everybody who participates loses something.

There are times that we may never really learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes it comes out in the end; but often times the truth is never fully revealed.

Prior to May 2009, Jeremy Mayfield was a NASCAR driver; he won races. He was suspended by NASCAR indefinitely that year for failing a drug test. NASCAR claimed Mayfield was a methamphetamine user. Headlines screamed across the country about Mayfield's alleged substance abuse. NASCAR did away with him, allegedly, to protect the the other drivers, and of course the purity of the sport. Many other factors led up to this final action.

Yet Mayfield alleges that the drug test he failed was due to over-the-counter medication he was taking that  produced a false test result. He sued NASCAR to get his job back and to set the record straight. He lost because he signed a waiver that precluded his ability to sue the sanctioning body. So, he planned to appeal.

In the latest twist, Mayfield has decided not to pursue the appeal. He says he didn't use illegal drugs. His wife Shana, remains by his side and continues to proclaim her husband's innocence.

Since the initial complaint, a series of other incidents have occurred; none of which put Mayfield in a positive light, while NASCAR came out of it smelling like a rose. Going back to my theory about no winners in the legal system, I can't help but be suspicious of such a one-sided outcome.

Either Jeremy Mayfield is a drug-crazed maniac that deserves to be removed from society much the way he was removed from the race track, or he is a victim--much like a government whistle-blower--someone who take on the most powerful and become a hero in the process.

Both scenarios could have merit. Let's face it, Mayfield was clearly the little guy--the David against Goliath. NASCAR is a fiefdom that rarely, if ever admits when it makes a mistake. Rarely does the media side with David. It is so much easier to take information from Goliath.

Even I have questioned some of NASCAR's actions, such as its imposing secret fines, its seemingly unfair rulings, inconsistent treatment of certain drivers, overall bias in race coverage, to name a few.

NASCAR is obsessed with its image and anything that negatively affects its bottom line, no matter what. NASCAR uses all its resources to head off bad publicity. Conversely, outlandish accusations made against NASCAR often come from eccentric fans who have little or no credibility, inspired by a less-than-desired outcome for their favorite driver in a given race.

But, imagine, what if NASCAR made a mistake in accusing Mayfield three years ago? What if all this time Mayfield has simply been trying to clear his name? Perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing, but NASCAR merely saw him as a threat to their brand. Is Mayfield a drug user and abuser or is he a victim of a powerful controlling force.

I admit--I have no answers--just questions. I'm not qualified to even take a side here because there is just too much speculation. I suppose time will tell, although I reiterate--time will likely not tell all.

This is just one example of why secrecy is so harmful. It leaves room--no it encourages--speculation. It hurts both sides.

I'd love to hear what others have to say about this case. Feel free to comment. Is Jeremy Mayfield innocent or guilty? What part has NASCAR played in Mayfield's troubles?