7th Fleet outlaws efforts to skirt drug tests
March 23, 2005
ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK — Sailors caught using products to defeat drug urinalysis testing now will face criminal punishments, under an order signed last week by 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
The change comes as the fleet transforms its testing program to withstand the challenge of devices, products and methods sailors have used to defeat the system.
With names like the Whizzinator — a prosthetic urine-containing device used to falsify a urinalysis result — any product or device that can cleanse, flush or dilute one’s system of drugs now is considered contraband and is illegal.
Possessing and using such a device can be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The policy is part of sweeping changes to the fleet’s drug testing program that followed a series of busts. In the past year, more than 40 sailors were charged with drug use after urinalysis or through investigations.
Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5, said those numbers were a staggering wake-up call. He is responsible for about 8,500 7th Fleet sailors and the ships involved in the recent cases.
“We are a little more wily about how we test,” Kelly said. “Our sailors all understand the game. Unfortunately it is a game to some of them.”
Last year, an investigation of several sailors who tested positive on their urinalysis tests indicated 19 drug users aboard the USS Vincennes. During the investigation, Navy leaders learned that sailors had surprising ways of beating the drug testing system.
“We very clearly got real surprised by our investigation into the circumstances that surrounded the Vincennes bust. Maybe it [was] the tip of the iceberg. It certainly [was] indicative of the way folks can get around the policy.”
The Vincennes had been the model of a good drug program, Kelly said. At the time, 40 percent of the ship was tested each month, far exceeding the Navy’s requirements.
But by using flushing products, borrowed urine and predictions of when testing would occur, sailors were avoiding getting busted.
The investigation results, Kelly said, demonstrated the extent of the problem.
One sailor in particular later charged with drug use had been tested multiple times and didn’t test positive.
“We learned from this guy and I think we learned pretty well,” Kelly said.
After the busts on the Vincennes and other ships under Kelly’s control, he and other Navy leaders got creative. Testing times and subjects were made more random. Sailors were monitored more closely during the testing process. And, with the new rule on flushing products, attempts to dupe the testing system are now illegal.
“If we happen to search your locker and we find flushing-type stuff, that is illegal,” Kelly said. “When you really get down to it, if our drug testing policy doesn’t work, we don’t have a lot of better ideas. So we cleaned it up.
“The more that they know that our policy works, that we will be a bit more agile, then I think there’s more of a feeling, ‘OK, I’d better not do this because the odds of me getting caught are going up.’ ”