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Brian France says an appeal is coming in the Jeremy Mayfield case and insists he will vigorously back NASCAR's drug policies

Brian France: The next step is coming....but what will it be (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern


    Brian France, as CEO of NASCAR, has had a rough year, facing several controversies, principally the fallout from a slumping U.S. economy and the Jeremy Mayfield case.
    And Friday he sat down again with the media to discuss some of the hot topics of the day, and he eloquently and vigorously defending NASCAR's drug policy, the centerpiece discussion of the 40-minute formal press conference.
    Mayfield's legal victory in federal court Wednesday apparently surprised NASCAR, and France says an appeal is being studied, in a case that has become something of a public relations nightmare, surrounding his legal battle over suspension for failing NASCAR drug tests in May.
   Why not immediate appeal?
    "There is more than one way to work the appellate process," France said. "We will figure out the appellate process with this case shortly. And we will be acting as quickly as we can. It is complicated.
   "But we will be defending the policy. 
   "More importantly, anyone who comes back with a positive test, we will do whatever it takes to make as certain that no one is impaired who is out on the race track."
    France said that, despite the well-known economic struggles of NASCAR Nationwide and Truck series, "Given the circumstances of the economy, they are relatively healthy.
    "The Nationwide series is far and away the number two series in the country. There is not even a close competitor. It does consistent television numbers with ESPN; they are very satisfied with it. Sponsorship could be better, of course, but it is okay. And the racing is great.
    "The Truck series has felt more pain, for sure, because they had a big area of support from the manufacturers, which, in all their troubles, has been pulled back. So we have responded with cost-cutting measures for the teams, and that's been effective. We have full fields for the Trucks, and some people believe that's some of the best racing they see.
    "And we operate the most successful road racing tour in the country, in Grand American, which we are developing slowly and steadily. That's probably the best road racing we've seen in the last 20 years. That competition model is running well.
    "Look, we've got four of the top six national divisions in the country, and we have a lot to manage. And we've got a lot of great people doing that."
    The TV ratings debate – last Sunday's Loudon 301 ratings were actually up slightly over last year's event, pulling a 4.1 over 4.0 – has been raging for more than two years now.
   But France pointed out NASCAR's TV ratings are still impressive, in the overall picture.
    "We are still the largest sporting event on most weekends -- You name the medium, we are either number one or number two every weekend,
" France says.
   "We try to keep things in perspective. A lot of people would like to have 'our problems.'
   "Companies are still finding enormous value here. Interest is high.
   "The double-file restarts are clearly putting a nice energy around the events.
   "We'll be looking at more things.
   "We felt we needed to let the new car settle in; we will be looking at making some in minor adjustments to the cars. We've been under a lot of pressure on that.
    "But there won't be major changes. And more teams every week are getting up to speed. The racing is fantastic. We stand by our product."
    The economy, naturally, is a major factor in NASCAR today. "The economy continues to be difficult for everybody, including our race fans, although there seems to be some optimism in the broader economy," France said, pointing toward signs of a turnaround in the second half of 2009. "And we're seeing that in some places where we might not have expected to see that.
     "I really want to applaud all the tracks for stepping to the plate in promoting the sport."


Jeremy Mayfield: is his NASCAR career over, despite Wednesday's court victory? Or will he return to the sport that's been his life since 1993? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

The principal subject Friday, though, was Jeremy Mayfield.
   "The hot topic of the day, the recent ruling in federal court Wednesday, and I want to clear up a few things with NASCAR's drug policy," France said.
   "We are disappointed by the ruling.
   "Jeremy was reinstated by that ruling.
    "We are reviewing our options, and there are many, including appeals…even a trial, to clear this up through the courts. We were hoping that would not be the case, but that may be the case.
  "I took a lot of questions on this in May. First it is our responsibility to protect the drivers and fans in the events. We have an inherently dangerous sport. So we are going to make sure, in every way we can, that everyone driving these race cars is of clear mind.
   "The drivers themselves wanted us to have more testing, and strong penalties if someone fails.
   "We took a long time to review how to go about that. We looked at the NFL's policy, the IOC's policy. We had to have the toughest policy because we have the most to lose if one of our competitors is on the track impaired.
   "People frequently test positive. But rarely do we have a suspension. We understand the implications of a suspension.
   "That's why the policy has built-in where you are instructed to tell our people of any medications you might be taking.
   "These are deep and comprehensive tests, and they will flag everything.
   "When it's detected, and we understand it's not a particular medication that will impair your driving, you may get a phone call to clarify things.
   "But in a very clear violation, that is unequivocal….It is the scientific judgment, beyond reproach, that had an effect that we believe impaired you and put people at risk.
   "At that point, it's the end of the road. You have to have an end of the road somewhere.
   "So we remain very calm, despite the ruling, that our policy is very fair."
   NASCAR has been criticized for not having a list of specific don't take drugs. However France said otherwise: "We do. It is very long, describing hundreds of drugs.
    "But we also understand that you can abuse prescription medications. And there are street drugs that we are not even aware of.
   "So by definition we are not going to have an absolute list of things…
   "Our tests have to be deeper and have more flexibility.
   "We are comfortable with that. We studied all the other drug policies before coming up with ours.
   "And we will be defending this policy very vigorously in the future."
   The judge in Charlotte questioned NASCAR's appeals process in this case and in general. Since NASCAR racing is a privately owned family business, the sport has been run under somewhat different rules than other sports, and there is no independent appeals process generally. And in the Mayfield case, NASCAR has said flatly there is "no appeal" available.
    France insisted "We think there is a lot of due process for a driver within our system.
   "We are talking about what impairs somebody's ability to drive the car. We get positive tests all the time, and our policy has some flexibility. We don't just lay the hammer down and ruin someone's career.
   "We know what Jeremy was tested for, and we will stand by our right to protect all our drivers and all our fans…
   "Our test is thorough, our process is complete."
   And France said he wasn't worried that the judge's questioning NASCAR's autocratic authority in general wouldn't become a bigger issue than just the Mayfield case.
    "I think it's restricted to just this particular matter," France said.
   "We just don't walk around suspending anyone we feel like. There is a very detailed process.
   "At some point there has to be an 'end of the road.'
   "I am a little surprised at the back-and-forth that is going on here. This is as clear as I can make it.
    "The (drug) tests are either certain or they're not.
   "These are tough decisions. We know what it means to anyone to get a positive test.  
   "But we are confident that test was reliable and will be upheld."




More "Bryan Speak and

More "Bryan Speak and Psycho-Babble"

NASCAR paid a certain Ms. Grant a lot of money, after saying its policies regarding her allegations of discrimination were completely unsubstantiated.
Jeremy Mayfield's case may also be, quietly and mysteriously, settled out of court sometime before adjudication so that the "Powers That Be" may once again save face rather than lose in the public forum and be forced to admit administrative weaknesses and wrongdoing.

The days of a heavy-handed dictatorship may be coming to an end, as less and less attention is paid to and less money is spent on a sport which has enjoyed a great deal of popularity and financial success for several years. Along with a declining economy, the many problems NASCAR faces may hasten its undoing. Reality bites......

I suspect you might be right.

I suspect you might be right. Even if Mayfield wins, he'll probably be 'blacklisted,' or banished to that never-never-land that some tend to vanish into. What I still don't understand is why NASCAR didn't just settle this whole thing behind closed doors, as it can do with virtually anything it wants. NASCAR, for some reason, wanted to play it out in public....but the sanctioning body might have found itself on the wrong side of the political fence after the last election, and maybe political tides are changing in america....and when the U.S. government winds up owning General Motors, it's clear it's not longer business as usual. NASCAR sometimes shoots itself in the foot, yes, but lately it has been more deft in handling issues (well, except this tv war between Fox and TNT and ABC-ESPN). NASCAR certainly isn't standing still on all these issues facing the sport, but i'm not sure there is a good game plan in place. of course i know that at gm there is essentially no darned game plan at all; at gm there is simply mass confusion, from top to bottom.

Maybe NASCAR did not settle

Maybe NASCAR did not settle because (1) all their tests show that Mayfield violated the policy and (2) because Mayfield took the matter to court - all NASCAR did was to announce that Mayfield had been suspended for an unspecified violation of the substance abuse policy, and consistently refused to disclose what Mayfield had tested positive for until it had to be disclosed in court. And if NASCAR had settled the whole matter "behind closed doors" with no public disclosure, then when it eventually did come out you media guys would have tried to crucify them for that. So far the one, absolutely clear thing is that NASCAR' drug testing program is far superior to the reporting about it.

i agree that the reporting

i agree that the reporting has been pretty bad....the problem is, IMHO, there are no reporters covering the sport any more. where is the NYT? where is the LA Times? Where is the Washington Post? Where is the Miami Herald. Where is the Atlanta paper, the Detroit paper, the Chicago paper? Where are the big guys? They dont care about nascar any more? am i wrong?

did any of y'all heroes ask

did any of y'all heroes ask Brian how his drug test came out?

yes, at charlotte last

yes, at charlotte last month.

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