Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Flat track just says 'maybe' to dope

A few days ago, American Flat Track/AMA Pro Racing dropped quite a press release, announcing that Jared Mees had been retroactively disqualified from the Atlanta short track race after lab results confirmed he'd used a 'chemically altered' rear tire.

Mees is the reigning GNC champion, the current points leader, and Atlanta winner. So, it was not surprising that AFT's release was picked up by every web site and moto-media outlet. That's not how I learned about it, though. I learned about it when my phone and computer started pinging, with messages from flat track racers, crew chiefs, and team owners all saying things like, "They're up to it again."

By 'again', they were referring to a story I broke on this blog back in 2015, when Jared Mees and his tuner Kenny Tolbert were accused of–but not punished for–tire doping. I'm not saying that AMA Pro Racing held a grudge about that story, but I went from having an AMA Pro season-long media hard card to not getting my calls or emails returned when I enquired about getting a media pass for specific events.

When last Friday's story broke, Common Tread, knowing that I'd written about the 2015 scandal, asked me to provide an analysis of the recent doping charge. I spoke to a few paddock insiders, traded texts and emails with others; left messages and got at least one official statement although most people insisted on talking 'on background' only. I understand their concerns, but I had a job to do.

That story ran yesterday. Over the course of the day, current & former pro racers, tuners, and team owners; employees at OEMs; other journalists including one heavy hitter from the mainstream press; even current & former AFT employees texted, emailed, or called to say, basically, 'Attaboy'. Most of the comments I've seen on the story and social media are supportive but you can't write a story like that without ruffling feathers.

So, I'll respond to criticism once, here, right now.

Maybe I'm wrong about that 2015 story getting me blackballed; maybe I just fell through the cracks. Regardless, I learned a long time ago that being nice to people, and being their friend–operating under the rule "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything"... All that seemed to help other people get ahead but that approach didn't work for me.

So in the interests of living an efficient life, I just try to do a good job instead, and let the chips fall where they may.

Go ahead, then; feel free to piss and moan about what I wrote in Common Tread. I plan to follow this drama, and hope to interview more of the principal players on or off the record, in order to write a major follow up.

I'm ready to amend my position on this story. However until such time as I'm presented with evidence that changes my opinion, I stand by what I wrote last weekend. I think it is fair-minded, as accurate as it could have been given the limitations of access and deadline, and reasonably entertaining to boot.