Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers star left fielder, had his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test overturned. A panel of arbitrators ruled 2-to-1 that the urine testing procedure used on Braun was flawed. Great for Braun, who could afford a team of high-powered attorneys to challenge every aspect of the testing procedures. But what about the average defendant in DC, Maryland or Virginia? Do the same rules of the game apply? Probably not.

Braun’s attorneys were able to establish that his urine sample was not handled strictly according to testing protocol. We’ll never know the full story, because the arbitrator’s decision remains sealed. Published reports indicate that the tester kept Braun’s sample in his home refrigerator overnight because the local FedEx office had closed for the night. Someone could have grabbed it while looking for a late-night snack.

With millions of urine tests conducted every year, even if a small percentage are false-positive, that equals to lots of people going to jail, losing their jobs, or denied essential benefits. Few urine screening laboratories have random quality control checks, so we just don’t know how many errors are being made. But people are people, and people make mistakes.

We do know that in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has revoked the test certification of one federal drug testing laboratory, and that three others had their licenses suspended.

At one lab, DHS found that the lab director did not understand the procedures for equipment calibration or the procedures for confirmatory testing.  As a result, the lab made “multiple mistakes in testing government submitted samples.” Great. But not unexpected.

These companies have contracts based on the number of tests performed.  They care about numbers.  As for the employees.  Many are dedicated, but how much can you really focus when your job every day is testing the same yellow liquid every day?

We do know that challenging the test results is expensive, and that many innocent people just give up, unless you are a baseball superstar.

Categories: Drug Testing

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