Almost three months after Jeremy Mayfield was first suspended by NASCAR for failing a random drug test, the Mayfield-NASCAR drug story is finally receiving coverage from major mainstream media. Yesterday I ran this post about NPR's awkward attempt at covering the story from the fans' point of view. Now The New York Times has chimed in with an article that brings non-NASCAR fans up to speed. Times reporter Mike Tierney writes, "The case has become like a multicar pileup at the speedway; you can’t take your eyes off it."
NASCAR does not come off well in The New York Times piece:
The increasingly salacious elements of the story and the stigma of the drug commonly referred to as crystal meth have dominated the news and taken the focus away from Nascar’s program, which many specialists in the field of drug testing have derided as less than ideal.
While applauding the intent, they say the plan lacks a full and specific list of disallowed drugs, fails to establish precise penalties, does not have a formal medical exception standard and is without a clearly established appeals or arbitration process.
Mayfield is interviewed by a Charlotte television station. Video here.
Experts slammed NASCAR's drug-testing policies:
Gary Wadler of the New York University School of Medicine, who helped compile the roster of prohibited drugs for the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he considered Nascar’s program “woefully adequate.” He said Major League Baseball and the NFL. “are light years ahead of where I believe Nascar is.”
Not having a defined list of banned substances renders the program “inherently unfair,” said Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor of health policy and a longtime adviser on drug policy to sports organizations.
The more attention this case gets, the better for Mayfield. His reputation is mud, but NASCAR is struggling this season. The sanctioning body has more to lose. The last thing it needs is another reason for fans to tune out.
On the plus side for NASCAR, media scrutiny is one way that organizations create better practices. Maybe the harsh light shined by The New York Times and other media will force NASCAR to create a clearer drug policy.