Drug Testing Information
Is drug testing information reliable?
One of the major issues in the battle over testing deals with whether or not drug testing information is fully reliable. Proponents of drug testing support their cause by claiming that better technology is becoming available, making it easier to reliably detect drugs. But those against testing say the methods are flawed, and the test results largely unreliable.
It's a serious matter, for the penalties that can result from flawed drug testing information are severe. You may be fired from your job and face the difficult task of finding employment again. You could lose custody of your children to the court. Parolees would face a quick return to prison. And athletes from all levels, local to Olympic, would lose their medals and reputations.
There are a number of reasons why drug testing information is found to be less than dependable. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, many methods of drug testing are inconsistent as they "yield a significant number of 'false positive' test results - that is, drug screens that appear to show drug use when none has taken place."
These 'false positives' are not only attributed to defects in the testing method, but can be caused by a number of over-the-counter medicines, herbal supplements and food products. For example, eating a poppy seed bagel used to cause people to fail drug tests. This is because poppy seeds contain opiates, and will show up on tests (the federal government has since increased the cut-off level of opiates to decrease this risk). Pain relievers containing ibuprofen can appear on tests as marijuana. Even nasal sprays and asthma medications have been known to purport false positives.
Testing is a touchy subject for athletes. With so much at risk - years of training, multi-million dollar endorsements, Olympic dreams - a false positive ends it all. One recent situation dealt with nandrolone, a chemical related to testosterone. Banned as a steroid, it was found that nandrolone frequently occurs biologically in many people, with some athletes having naturally higher levels than others. Sports drinks can also contain ingredients such as caffeine and ephedrine that come across on athlete's drug tests as chemical enhancement.
Drug tests also do not provide crucial information such as whether or not the subject is a chronic drug user or a one-time offender, if the individual was aware that he or she had taken the drug, or if the positive test result came from passive exposure to substances.