It's a small but increasingly sophisticated cottage industry -- folks bent on helping job applicants, criminals and professional athletes beat the urine tests that check for drugs.
And in Minnesota and all but about a dozen states, it's perfectly legal.
The issue of foiling drug tests arose this week with the revelation that Vikings running back Onterrio Smith was stopped at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport carrying a kit used to circumvent drug tests.
"There's a lot of really good chemists out there, and some of them are working on the dark side," said Jennifer Collins, lab director at Medtox Laboratories in New Brighton, one of the largest drug-testing centers in the nation.
Chemists have created synthetic urine, freeze-dried urine, pills, additives, effervescent tablets, drinks and other concoctions designed to flush out or mask drug residue. And where's the best place to buy them? On the Internet, of course.
And then there's the Whizzinator.
That's the device that was found in Smith's luggage. It is a prosthetic penis attached to a bag that emits synthetic urine or reconstituted urine from freeze-dried crystals.
The device comes in five flesh tones to mimic skin of different ethnic groups. Its components fit in a jock strap and it is designed to fool someone observing the collection of the urine sample.
"Most of the products don't work very well," Collins said. "We think we catch most of them in testing. But the developers are getting more sophisticated, and as soon as we figure out how to catch one product, they're coming out with another one."
Her firm conducts several hundred drug tests a day on specimens taken at collection sites around the country for businesses and criminal justice agencies.
"Trying to defeat the drug tests is not a huge problem, but it's growing," she said. About 1 percent of samples test positive for drugs - -- about half of them marijuana. Another 1 percent or so are diluted samples where the donor intentionally drank lots of fluid to lower the drug-residue concentration.
Even synthetic urine used to calibrate testing devices usually can be detected because it often contains other chemicals, she said.
How They Test
"We know that some people slip by," said Roslyn Paterson, a nurse who owns Additional Testing Inc., a Roseville business that takes urine samples for drug testing.
At her firm, people giving a sample are asked to empty their pockets and enter a room alone to produce a urine specimen within four minutes. The room is inspected afterward for signs of cheating and the urine temperature is checked.
"We've had a woman who brought in a baggie with urine that was too cool, and another who tried to bring in urine in a baby bottle," Paterson said. "Sometimes it's too hot, like they cooked it in a microwave before they came in."
Nationally, about 60 percent of employers screen job applicants, and those who test positive likely won't get the job.
"But if you're already on the job, adulterating your urine can be worse than failing the test," she said. "Some places they'll fire you for faking it, but they'll give you treatment if you test positive."
Inmates on supervised release in Minnesota also must stay free of drugs and are tested regularly.
"We watch them go," said state corrections agent Richard Pung, who helps supervise 106 offenders in the Twin Cities metro area.
"The worst attempt at cheating I've run across was a guy who tried to substitute a Visine bottle full of urine," he said. "Most of these guys don't bother to cheat. There's not much you can do while I'm watching."
Federal rules require drug testing for truckers, airline pilots, railroad workers and some other professions. But there's no federal law that prohibits trying to fool the drug testers.
Experts in the drug-testing industry will testify next week before a House committee that there should be penalties.
"Devices and products that try to circumvent drug testing are bad news," said Leah Young, spokeswoman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C., a federal agency that works to improve drug testing and compliance. "There ought to be a law."
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