Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bicycle Logistics

There are some great pictures of bicycles being used to carry things at this link:

When my daughter and I were in Cambodia, we rented bikes for two days around Angor Wat, and saw similar creative uses of bicycles, although none quite some impressive as some of these.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

WSJ: Urinalysis Test Faulty

The first statement of an athlete accused of doping is to claim innocence, which is often a lie. But the first impulse of the testers is to claim infallibility, and that’s often a lie as well. Here’s the saga of a urinalysis test for alcohol from the Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2006. This isn’t the test involved in the Floyd Landis case, but it’s instructive about the politics of drug testing.

The EtG test is widely used to screen for alcohol use, particularly among people with past histories of alcohol abuse who need to demonstrate that they haven’t been backsliding. But alcohol metabolizes quickly. The EtG test looks for ethyl glucuronide, “a unique metabolite of alcohol that stays in urine for up to 80 hours – four times as long as does alcohol itself. ... The wider window of detection made EtG an instant hit with drug courts, professional licensing boards and other agencies ...and an instant star of the urine-testing industry, which is performing tens of thousands of EtG tests per month in the U.S.”

However, the test can be set off by the use of hand sanitizers or alcohol-containing foods or medicines, or even “a carton of apple juice left too long in the refrigerator”, persuading “even the scientist who pioneered EtG screening in America that the test is prone to so-called false positives.”

Did the testing companies care? “Even after the evidence emerged that the EtG test could detect incidental exposure ... many urine-testing firms continued marketing the screen as definitive proof... Some continue to do so. ‘EtG is not detectable... unless an alcoholic beverage has been consumed,’ says the Web site of ...AccuDiagnostics... [which] attributes that claim to toxicologists at laboratories to which it outsources its samples.”

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has issued a warning saying that the EtG test isn’t perfect.

For a variety of information about the Floyd Landis case, try