Tripler Drug Testing Lab Defends Its Methods - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Tripler Drug Testing Lab Defends Its Methods

Maj. Pitzer Maj. Pitzer

By Leland Kim

SALT LAKE (KHNL) - Random drug testing also affects our men and women in the armed services. It's been a standard procedure for decades. But, one Schofield soldier says there's a problem with the system.

The soldier, who wishes to remain anonymous, tested positive for methamphetamines back in March 2007. He said he is not a drug user. But the military's drug testing lab vehemently defends its system.

The military has performed random drug testing for decades. It has been successful in weeding out drug users. But a Schofield soldier says he was shocked when a drug test came back positive.

"I was really surprised," said the anonymous soldier. "Even my NCO (non-commissioned officer) was surprised. He was like, 'Wow, this is a surprise!' That's what he said to me. I'm like, 'I'm shocked, too.'"

He was court-martialed, demoted, and got a pay cut. He said the last six months have been a nightmare.

"As a result of these tests, if we get a false positive, our careers in effect are ruined and we're stigmatized," he said. "I mean, where do you go to get your reputation back, after something like this has been said about you?"

But the military's drug testing lab stands by its results. If a sample comes back positive, it is tested up to three more times.

"The confirmation analysis is the only time we can call a specimen positive, meaning if any of the three tests are negative, then it goes out as negative," Maj. Kevin Pitzer, commander of the Forensics Drug Testing Lab located at Tripler Army Medical Center.

The soldier maintains his innocence, and hopes to clear his name.

"This has been like one of the worst experiences that I went through in my military career, and I would not want anyone else to go through that," he said. "So, if they can take steps to ensure that it does not happen again, that would be great. That would be great."

But the lab participates in blind quality control testing several times a year, meaning it controlled samples are analyzed alongside actual samples. The lab had a perfect score every time.

"We got every single one of those specimen correct in terms of positive," said Maj. Pitzer. "What we called positive, it was positive."

The lab's policy is to err on the side of caution.

"We do everything we can to benefit the soldier," said Maj. Pitzer. "We have so many protocols in place, to ensure that when we say something is positive, it is positive."

That's why the lab stands behind its results.

"My samples were analyzed here," said Maj. Pitzer. "I'm a hundred percent confident in the results."

The soldier is gathering documents to fight his case. The lab said it has many checks and balances in place, because they know soldiers' careers are at stake.

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