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Peter Butler, a mechanic with a safety-sensitive job in the Connecticut State Department of Transportation, got the word from his supervisor July 22, 1999, that “we’re going for a drug test.” His case ended up putting the system to a test. He was driven to St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven, Conn., and from his employer’s viewpoint, the results justified a notice of job termination a week later. Butler fought it. He filed a union grievance and in the course of his arbitration found that a new procedure had been applied to him. His urine sample wasn’t actually tested for drugs. It tested positive for pyridine — an ingredient sometimes used in potions like “Urine Luck, ” an additive sold for $32 a vial over the Internet to disguise the presence of drugs. The testing lab, Smith Kline Beecham, notified the DOT’s drug testing agency, The Newport Alliance. A woman identified as “Dr. G.” was the agency’s Medical Review Officer, a scrupulously objective role. After receiving the lab results for the sample’s pH and specific gravity, Dr. G. informed the DOT personnel department that Butler’s sample was not tested because it had been adulterated. CATCH-22 In an August 23 letter, Dr. G. informed the DOT that the federal Department of Health and Human Services had a new reporting category — “Specimen Adulterated.” It’s used, Dr. G. wrote, if “it is possible to definitely state that it is not compatible with normal human urine and that the sample has been tampered with.” Butler immediately requested a “split sample” test as provided by federal regulations. The collection attendant has to save a 15 ml backup bottle in addition to the 30 ml used for the primary test, so a second test can be performed independently. But according to Dr. G’s letter, when the lab finds the sample adulterated “the donor does not have the right to have a split sample tested because the donor has refused to provide his own urine.” Dr. G’s letter stated flatly that pyridine is “not found in the normal human body or urine.” Later, Dr. G. asked the lab for the quantity of pyridine found. Its certifying scientist said there was only a test for pyridine’s presence, not its concentration. In a hearing before the State Labor Relations Board, arbitrator Joseph M. Celentano ultimately ruled in Butler’s favor, ordering him reinstated with full seniority and all other contractually related benefits. But the September 25th ruling was no snap judgment. Butler was represented at arbitration by Charles E. Tiernan III, of New Haven’s Lynch Traub. Butler’s expert was “Dr. O” who agreed that pyridine is not usually found in urine unless there is an acute or severe exposure. Heavy smoking or drinking roasted coffee could do it, he testified. The Labor Board’s lawyer, Paul Bodenhofer, presented exhibits showing that pyridine, “sometimes in the form of Urine Luck” is known to be used as an adulterant to avoid positive drug test results.” Furthermore, although Butler was required to empty his pockets, “no one actually watched the urine pass from his body to the container, which gave him ample opportunity to add the adulterant containing pyridine.” Celantano focused on evidentiary weaknesses. After scrutiny, the only basis for concluding the sample was adulterated was the pyridine, he found. Testimony showed that Butler smoked three or four packs of cigarettes a day and drank five to six cups of coffee, so in his case, it wasn’t impossible for pyridine to be in his system. Butler was legally entitled to independent “split sample” testing. Since it was requested and never done, “his termination was without just cause” Celentano wrote. Also, after failing to attend two scheduled hearings, Dr. G. informed Celentano she would need a month to prepare. Celentano deemed that unreasonable and proceeded without her. Because the state didn’t produce Dr. G or the certifying scientist, Butler was prejudiced, contributing to the lack of just cause in the state’s action. He cited seven key attributes of “just cause.” One is that the testing must be done before the punishment is meted out. In this case, Celentano found, the testing was done perfunctorily and after Butler was terminated. The conclusion that the sample was adulterated was not backed up by any subsequent testing, just the lab’s opinion from the presence of an undetermined quantity of one chemical. Thus, Dr. G’s letter stating that the sample was adulterated is “classic hearsay,” Celentano wrote. The state’s evidentiary description of pyridine is “from a Web page from an agency on toxic substances,” he noted, without citation. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s “ToxFAQs” on its web page for pyridine say it is a colorless liquid with an unpleasant smell derived from coal tar, used to make paints, adhesives and insecticides. It’s found in coffee and cigarette smoke, the agency states. The “Urine Luck” Web page says its current formulation contains no pyridine.

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