Archive for the ‘drug testing’ category

NCAA Reduces Penalty for a Positive Marijuana Test

April 18th, 2014

The Legislative Council of the NCAA approved a measure that would reduce the penalty for a positive marijuana drug test. Currently, college athletes face a full year suspension if caught using marijuana, but, after August 1st of this year, the suspension will be reduced to half of a year.

NCAANCAA reasoned that marijuana is not “performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation.” The change in policy distances marijuana from being seen equally to steroid use and treats the issue “the same as academic fraud.” This change clearly reflects the national shift on attitudes about marijuana towards decriminalization rather than strict punishment.

However, individual schools and conferences can still set whatever harsher penalties they like for their players. Since the NCAA only tests for marijuana during championships, it’s fairly easy for an athlete to stop smoking marijuana a month before the NCAA Tournament to test negative.

“But if the NCAA would get out of the morality business when it comes to things like substances, and stay in the business of making sure competition is fair and not tainted by PEDs, I think it would be better for everyone,” Glenn Logan said in an article for SB Nation. “After all, we don’t test regular scholarship students for marijuana, so why should student-athletes be singled out?”

Survey: Most Americans Say It Is “Unacceptable” For An Employee To Be Fired For Their Off-The-Job Marijuana Use

November 13th, 2013

Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree with workplace policies that allow employers to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job consumption of cannabis, according to a just released HuffPost/YouGov poll.

Sixty-four percent of the poll’s respondents, including 62 percent of self-identified Republicans, said that it is “unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for using marijuana during his or her free time” if the employee resides in a state that has legalized the plant’s adult use. An equal percentage of respondents similarly said that it would be unacceptable for an employer to fire an employee for after-hours drinking.

Only 22 percent of respondents said that it is acceptable for employers to fire workers who consume cannabis legally after-hours.

To date, the Supreme Court of three separate states — California, Oregon, and Washington — have all similarly ruled that an employee who uses cannabis legally while off the job can still be sanctioned by their employer.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the HuffPost/YouGov poll agreed that it should always be unacceptable for an employer to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job marijuana use, even if the use took place in a state that classifies cannabis as illegal.

Conventional workplace drug tests detect the presence of inert drug metabolites, non-psychoactive by-products that linger in the body’s urine well after a substance’s mood-altering effects have subsided.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults and possesses a margin of error is +/- 4.8 percent.

Rules Change on Olympic Marijuana Testing

July 18th, 2013

It’s been 15 years since Ross Rebagliati won snowboarding’s first Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games — and then nearly lost that medal after he tested positive for marijuana.

Since then, the drug has become an integral part of Rebagliati’s life. Next month Rebagliati will open a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Whistler, British Columbia, called “Ross’ Gold.” The Canadian has also become a public face for pot-smoking athletes around the globe.

“Anytime somebody gets in trouble for weed I’m the guy the media calls,” Rebagliati, who lives outside Whistler, told USA TODAY Sports. “I went on NBC to defend (Michael) Phelps for smoking responsibly. I told them, Hey, it’s zero calories, zero fat!’”

Now 42, Rebagliati believes that changing attitudes toward marijuana — it’s now legal for medicinal purposes in Canada and 14 U.S. states — justifies the drug’s removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.

Like cocaine and heroin, cannabis is banned during competition by WADA, which oversees drug testing worldwide in Olympic sports.

WADA recently amended its rules on cannabis, raising the threshold for a positive test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/ml. In 1998 at the Nagano Games, Rebagliati recorded a level of 17.8 ng/ml, and argued the test resulted from second-hand smoke, which he still says. Ben Nichols, a spokesperson for WADA, said the raising of the threshold is meant to catch only athletes who smoke in the days before a competition. The drug isn’t prohibited out of competition.

“Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption,” Nichols said. “The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”

Raising the threshold level to 150 nanograms per milliliter means that an athlete would have to be a “pretty dedicated cannabis consumer” to test positive, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Last year four athletes in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s pool tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the primary ingredient in marijuana. That’s a small percentage of the 2,776 in-competition tests the agency conducted. But one of the athletes, wrestler Stephany Lee, was kept off the Olympic team after testing positive at the Olympic trials.

USOC chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky declined to be interviewed for the story but released a statement that said the USOC is committed to clean competition. “Additionally, we respect WADA’s decision-making expertise and processes – they decide what is banned and what thresholds to apply and we work to ensure that U.S. athletes are appropriately educated,” the statement read.

Although marijuana isn’t viewed to have obvious performance-enhancing qualities, one of the reasons it’s on WADA’s list in the first place is because of the drug’s possible effect during competition. For example, you wouldn’t want a bobsledder driving down an icy track while impaired, said Dr. Matt Fedoruk, USADA’s science director. He adds that the the definition of performance enhancing drugs shouldn’t be limited to “making you stronger and faster and being able to jump higher. It’s how it affects some of the other parameters that are really important like pain or confidence or some of the things that are a bit more difficult to measure or define analytically.”

Athletes sanctioned by the USADA for marijuana generally receive suspensions ranging from three months to a year, depending on the athlete’s case and if there was a past violation and whether the drug was coupled with other banned substances. A three-month suspension can be deferred if an athlete completes an education program.

The International Olympic Committee originally banned drugs like marijuana and cocaine because of their illegality, and because they violate the “spirit of sport.” WADA, created in 1999, follows three criteria in establishing its list of banned substances: performance enhancement, danger to an athlete’s health and violation of the spirit of sport.

Society’s attitudes toward marijuana may have contributed to the timing of WADA’s change, St. Pierre said. He points to Colorado and Washington passing legislation last year to legalize the drug for recreational use.

“So they kind of ask the question … if we really don’t believe overtly that this is causing people to game the system by developing greater athletic skills, shouldn’t we really revisit this,” St. Pierre said.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine that cannabis should be thrown into that mixture (of banned drugs) unless it is still viewed as a moral turpitude,” he added. “Society doesn’t seem to view it anymore as a moral turpitude.”

Attitudes toward the drug vary around the world. “It’s a global prohibited list,” Fedoruk said. “One country doesn’t have the last word per se on inclusion of substances. Globally there’s been some pressure from various stakeholders to address what is the appropriate threshold that you would catch use in competition only of cannabis. I think the change was to try to reflect that more accurately.”

St. Pierre also raised the issue of the anti-inflammatory qualities associated with cannabinoids and whether they could provide some athletes an unfair advantage. Athletes such as former Dallas Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski have said that the drug has helped in recovery after strenuous training. St. Pierre says there’s more scientific research being done that supports those claims.

In the sports that fall under WADA jurisdiction, pot use still accounts for a significant number of violations. According to USADA statistics, of the 147 sanctions since 2008, 28 were from cannabis. Dr. Don Catlin, founder of the UCLA Olympic Analytic Laboratory, said cannabis violations account for a larger number internationally.

In 2003, cannabinoids accounted for 13.9% (378 of 2,716) of all adverse analytical findings (samples that found the presence of a banned substance or method), according to WADA statistics. Only anabolic agents such as testosterone and stimulants surpassed cannabinoids as banned substances found in testing. In 2011, WADA reported 445 violations for cannabis or 7.9% of 5,600 adverse test results.

One of the founders of modern day drug testing, Catlin said there was a long-running debate about marijuana during the early years of testing for banned substances.

“Some people felt it wasn’t correct to use a PED test to try and clean up the image of sport,” Catlin said. “In the end the IOC decided you should test for those kinds of drugs.”

Positive marijuana tests can have a serious impact on athletes lives. Last summer American judo athlete Nick Delpopolo was sent home from the London Olympics after testing positive. Delpopolo, who said the test was a result of eating baked goods laced with marijuana, declined comment for this story.

Lee, the wrestler, was banned for one year for her positive test last summer. It was her second doping violation. In a radio interview after her second positive, Lee said she used marijuana for medicinal purposes, but said she had stopped smoking two weeks before competition.

“It’s hard,” Lee said. “I’m home watching the opening ceremonies on TV.”

In 2003, a positive test for cannabis drove downhill mountain biker Gary Houseman out of his sport entirely. A BMX prodigy, Houseman became the first American in four years to win a stop on the UCI World Cup when he won in Grouse Mountain, British Columbia. But when he tested positive for marijuana — and faced a $2000 fine and a year suspension — Houseman retired at age 23.

“I just decided to move on,” Houseman said.

While he can’t speak for WADA’s reasoning for the change, Fedoruk says he thinks the goal is to focus on more “potent ergogenic drugs such as EPO, human growth hormone and testosterone.

“Enhancing our capabilities in doing our job better to being able to detect those is always a goal of the anti-doping movement. To the extent that perhaps resources can be reallocated because countries maybe aren’t spending as much on cannabis, I think it’s a potentially good thing.”

Rebagliati, who retired from snowboard competition in 2000, is open about his feelings on the subject.

“Everybody knew I was a pot smoker after the Olympics,” he said. “I said I smoked and I still smoke but I never denied it.”

Source: USA Today (US)
Author: Frederick Dreier, Special To USA Today
Published: July 17, 2013
Copyright: 2013 USA Today, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Contact: editor@usatoday.com
Website: http://www.usatoday.com/

Fail: Drug Czar Tries To Link Marijuana and Crime

May 30th, 2013

The nation’s so-called ‘drug czar’, Gil Kerlikowske, convened a press conference last week to release new government data on drug use in America. The major talking points for the presentation were two fold:

*Insist that cannabis is linked to crime

*The public sentiment in favor of legalization is an unfortunate attraction to ‘bumper sticker solutions’

arrested

One could write a doctoral thesis on Mr.Kerlikowske’s supposition and claims, but suffice for space and time, let’s let the now much more watchdog media on the issue of ending cannabis prohibition better describe what they’ve figured out about ONDCP propaganda, data and the intellectual crime of omission. (Boy, do I have a book recommendation for them…)

Slate reported on the ONDCP’s well established proclivity to throw out data and insinuate causality…using squishy terms like ‘linked’:

On Thursday, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced the results of a study that—at least according to him—demonstrated a link between marijuana use and crime. The study analyzed data collected via the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program (ADAM II), which took urine samples from arrestees in five cities over a 21-day period last year. “Marijuana remained the drug most often detected in ADAM II arrestees in all five sites in 2012, ranging from 37 percent of ADAM II arrestees testing positive in Atlanta to 58 percent testing positive in Chicago,” the study reported. “In three of the five sites, over half of the adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana.”

Kerlikowske, who opposes marijuana legalization, said in a speech Thursday that the study showed that America needs to “acknowledge and come to grips with the link between crime and substance use.” But correlation is not causation. Just because a high percentage of arrestees tested positive for marijuana does not mean that smoking marijuana made them commit crimes. Here are other things that over half of the adult male arrestees probably had in common: pants, food in their stomachs, a mother who loves them, an impoverished background, an affinity for one or more of the local sports teams.

Now, Kerlikowske only said that drug use and crime were linked, not that drug use causescrime. But still, the implications are obvious. Kerlikowske is not a stupid man, and he’s not actually a terrible drug czar. He has argued that drug abuse needs to be treated as a public health issue, not just a matter of criminal justice, and I couldn’t agree more. In his speech, Kerlikowske mentioned the need to move the drug policy reform debate beyond “bumper stickers.” One good way to do that is to move beyond studies that don’t necessarily say anything at all.

Reason’s Mike Riggs (a prolific and resourceful blogger about criminal justice matters) took the ONDCP to task one step further by busting the office for omitting alcohol related data and not informing the public more accurately about the most problematic and abused drug for incoming criminal defendants: alcohol

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a study last week that found the majority of arrestees in five metropolitan areas tested positive for marijuana at the time they were booked, and that many other arrestees tested positive for harder drugs. There was one drug missing from the report, however, and it appears it was omitted intentionally. That drug is alcohol.

When I wrote up the 2012 annual report on the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II, I noticed that the methodology section contained a list of “data domains”; basically, a guide to the questions researchers asked each arrestee. Every question listed had a corresponding chart in the findings section of the report, save one: The data that researchers collected about alcohol consumption–how often arrestees had consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a single session over the last three, seven, and 30 days, as well as in the past 12 months–was omitted from the report.

Study: Student Drug Testing Programs Linked To Spikes In ‘Hard’ Drug Use

May 16th, 2013

Schools that institute student drug testing programs are likely to experience a rise in students’ consumption of ‘hard’ drugs, according to observational trial data published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research analyzed the impact of student drug testing programs in some 250,000 high-school and middle-school students over a 14 year period. Investigators reported that random drug testing programs of the student body and programs specifically targeting student athletes were associated with “moderately lower marijuana use,” but cautioned that drug testing programs overall were “associated with increased use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.”

An estimated 14 percent of middle school students and 28 per cent of US high school students are now subject to some form of drug testing.

Urinalysis, the most common form of student drug testing, screens for the presence of inert drug metabolites (breakdown products), not the actual parent drug. Because marijuana’s primary metabolite, carboxy-THC, is fat soluble, it may be present in urine for days, weeks, or in some cases even months after past use. By contrast, most other illicit drug metabolites are water soluble and will exit the body within a matter of hours. Authors of the study speculated that students subjected to drug screens were switching from cannabis to other illicit drugs which possessed shorter detection times.

“Random SDT (student drug testing) among the general high school student population, as well as middle and high school subgroups targeted for testing, was associated with moderately lower marijuana use; however, most forms of testing were associated with moderately higher use of other illicit drugs, particularly in high school,” the authors concluded. “These findings raise the question of whether SDT is worth this apparent tradeoff.”

Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author affirmed, “It is clear that drug testing is not providing the solution for substance-use prevention that its advocates claim.”

Previous assessments of student drug testing programs have reported that those subjected to such programs are no less likely to report consuming illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol than their peers.

The abstract of the study, “Middle and High School Drug Testing and Student Illicit Drug Use: A National Study 1998–2011,” is available online here.

Court Upholds Temporary Ban on Florida Welfare Drug Testing

February 26th, 2013

Earlier today, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that temporarily halted the enforcement of a Florida law requiring that all welfare recipients be drug testedUrine Sample in order to receive benefits.

We have addressed this issue in the past on this blog, and it is good to see the 11th Circuit supporting the lower court’s decision. Drug testing in this fashion is an invasion of privacy, and in most cases ends up costing the taxpayers far more than is saved by denying benefits to the very few people who test positive.

Yet Another Way Drug Testing Fails: Baby Products Linked To False Positive Drug Test Results In Newborns

April 10th, 2012

[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from next week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

Commercially available baby soaps and other wash products that are commonly used with newborns may yield false positive results for THC in immunoassay drug screens, according to a just published study in the journal Clinical Biochemistry.

Investigators at the University of North Carolina, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, assessed the impact of various baby wash products on drug-free urine samples after a number of false positive cannabinoid screening results were suspected at their hospital.

Researchers reported: “Mixtures of drug-free urine with various commercial products and materials that commonly contact newborns in our nursery were prepared and tested using the immunoassay screening methods in our laboratory. … Addition of Head-to-Toe Baby Wash to drug-free urine produced a dose dependent measureable response in the THC immunoassay. Addition of other commercially available baby soaps gave similar results, and subsequent testing identified specific chemical surfactants that reacted with the THC immunoassay.”

They concluded: “We have identified commonly used soap and wash products used for newborn and infant care as potential causes of false positive THC screening results. Such results in this population can lead to involvement by social services or false child abuse allegations. Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions.”

Read the abstract of the study, “Unexpected interference of baby wash products with a cannabinoid (THC) immunoassay,” here.

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April 6th, 2012

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March 30th, 2012

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Oklahoma GOP Kills Legislation To Drug Test Politicians

March 27th, 2012
​​With some of the wack-ass laws emanating from the Oklahoma Legislature recently -- I mean, come on, life in prison for hash? -- you might wonder if those Okie lawmakers are on drugs, or something.Well, you're just gonna have to keep wondering, because the Republican-led Oklahoma Senate has killed legislation that would have required politicians to be drug tested, along with people receiving temporary public assistance, reports Michael Allen at Opposing Views.The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Monday passed a bill that would require applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to undergo a mandatory drug test, reports KSWO-TV, but they stripped out language that would have required they themselves be tested. Continue reading "Oklahoma GOP Kills Legislation To Drug Test Politicians" >