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Court refuses to revive suit by ex-driver Mayfield

A federal appeals court on Monday refused to reinstate former race car driver Jeremy Mayfield's lawsuit against NASCAR over his 2009 suspension for failing a random drug test at Richmond International Raceway.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a federal judge did not abuse his discretion in dismissing Mayfield's complaint against NASCAR; its owner, Brian Zachary France; and a drug testing company.

Mayfield sued for defamation, unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract and negligence after France held a news conference to announce the driver had been suspended for testing positive for a "performance enhancing" or "recreational" drug: methamphetamine. U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen, in Charlotte, N.C., had tossed out the lawsuit because Mayfield had twice — as a driver and an owner — signed documents waiving his right to sue.

"In this case, the liability waiver is enforceable under Florida law," Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the unanimous appeals court opinion. Gregory was joined by Judge Barbara Milano Keenan and visiting U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady.

Florida law governed because NASCAR has its headquarters in that state.

Mayfield's attorney, Tillman Finley, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Helen Maher, an attorney at the New York firm that represented NASCAR, said the ruling verifies the fairness of the organization's substance abuse policy.

"This case was never about anything more than NASCAR's ability to keep the sport clean and our competitors safe," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president for racing operation.

Mayfield, 42, has argued that a combination of the over-the-counter allergy medication Claritin-D and the prescription medication Adderall for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder led to the positive test. He also argued that NASCAR's testing system was flawed and that it did not follow federal guidelines in its testing methods.

After failing his first drug test, Mayfield was given the option of having another sample evaluated to confirm or refute the first test. The second sample also was positive for methamphetamine, and NASCAR suspended him until he completed a recovery program. A few days later, France went public with the results.

Trouble has followed Mayfield since his suspension.

Last November, he was charged with possessing 1.5 grams of methamphetamine after a raid on his home in Catawba, N.C. Last month, he was indicted in Catawba County on three counts of possessing stolen property and one count of obtaining property by false pretenses. A grand jury in neighboring Caldwell County indicted him a week later on four counts of felony larceny.

Mayfield has suggested he is the target of a conspiracy involving NASCAR and law enforcement officials.

Mayfield made his NASCAR debut in 1993. He has recorded five victories, 96 Top Ten finishes and $30.2 million in career winnings.