Raina Fisher

Through the Looking Glass

Sha’Carri Richardson is a world-renowned Olympic sprinter who just broke the record — and the rules. The sentiments vary on who ousted her from the Olympic Game roster.

Be that as it may, she was well aware of the World Antidoping Agency ban on the consumption of marijuana. In spite of this, she strikes a match to take a puff, or two.

She heads to the lab and tests positive for cannabinoids. Her dreams of Tokyo shatter. They bar the undisputedly fastest woman in America from the Team USA track.

She takes it on the chin, much to the chagrin of her teammates and her country. To err is human and to forgive is indeed divine when the entire field must bear the brunt of the fallout in the wake of her mistake.

At first blush, this is a tale of a role model. She must reap what she sows to show the young girls who aspire to be like her that being an athlete is not a free pass — we make them play by the same set of standards.

To abide by rules is far from a flash-in-the-pan precept. In the future, they might reverse course on guidelines in an archaic rulebook. Yet at the end of the day, we all must live and die by a code for a civil society to thrive.

Her stalemate saga stirs an ember at the fore of my mind. Had a dubious lab run her test, we might get to watch a high-profile court battle ensue.

There are massive ramifications to the public when a trusted entity flouts protocol to cut more corners than a New York cab driver.

Nine times out of 10, a big-time conglomerate is keen to run small-town folks through the ringer and sweep the shenanigans under the rug.

A hospital in a neighboring county may well rue the day — while they try to snag me in the crosshairs, I hear the call to shine a beacon on their ruse. At some point, a firm is bound to file a class-action suit on the funny business.

It was mid-June and, though I’d hesitate from the outset, in the end I will cross the glass doors to the lively first-floor lab.

The tech tells me to set my purse and book down on a tall table in the small break room across the hall. She hands me a clear 16-ounce plastic cup. There was no label for my name, nor did it have a lid.

I walk in and out of the bathroom and then meander up and down the hall with my flimsy, open container that smacks of a red cup, but not as thick. A voice calls out for me to set it in a cupboard.

So, I zigzag back to stick it in a tiny door in the wall. My thoughts irk me, but I shove them to the back burner to simmer.

A week later, my phone rings. The nurse from neurology calls in a nonchalant way to give me the boot — her tone tells me that my doctor could care less, and she is not going to treat me.

The goal is to test negative for drugs — not in this case. The fact is they didn’t screen for the medicine that I have to take to drive, which is fishy for a start.

I was in the bustling waiting room for nearly an hour. At the time, it didn’t dawn on me to ask how they keep track of who is who.

Now, the foghorn blares for me to think back to the red flags to pop up on the path. First, no one had the foggiest clue as to who I might be.

I usually go to the Eastwood Clinic — Christy is a gem. She knows me, but I still flash her my license for the sake of protocol.

My ambush of the staff renders an identical, solitary rationale across the board. It all comes down to the lab tab — to offset their failure to glean payment, they run the cheapest test, albeit the incorrect one.

It’s just a hunch, but the saddle could be on the crooked mode in which they collect a specimen. They call a name, mark it off the list and then a lab-tech will label the cup — after it’s in the cubby. Why not do it from the get-go?

Is this a system fraught with snake-oil salesmen or merely a matter of unmitigated incompetence?

In any event, it begs the question of what steps to take if we catch wind of fraud or discrimination. Do we zip our lips, shrug it off and let the chips fall where they may?

What is more intrusive than a phlebotomist to puncture a vein and draw our blood — though in truth many roll the needle for the sweet spot to flow and fill the vials to the brim with our life force.

If public confidence in laboratory integrity were to erode, then the pillars which bank on their accuracy might crumble as well.

Behind the curtain is a billion-dollar industry, namely LabCorp, to publish reports which reveal a myriad of results.

In the main, it lays bare levels of toxicity after a car crash. It sheds light on the extent in which a probationer is or is not clean.

The fate of entire families is at their mercy. The courts could ship a mom off to rehab or she might wind up behind bars.

Sons and daughters may end up in foster care when mothers and fathers go to prison. A mom or dad who wants custody or visits will have to follow the rules set forth by the bench.

In part, per the Oxford Academic Journal of Analytical Toxicology: “Any important clinical or court decisions that are solely based on drugs-of-abuse testing by immunoassays can be regarded as intrinsically biased, ethically troublesome, misleading and not very helpful.”

What’s more, with an apt analytic, “methylphenidate will not be mistaken for amphetamine class compounds or vice versa” there is no veracity to this myth. (Breindahl & Hindersson, 2012).

Those who take it may still get in hot water with parents or counselors, though it’s the fault of inept medical personnel.

The nurse to write an order for the test ought to partake in a ritual lecture on the gravity and color of the liquid in the cup, just as the patients at the VA do.

Is it time for us to send links to case studies or have a sit-down with them on our meds?

If these firms are going to track us through our DNA — and we can take it to the bank that they do — then is it a hard sell for them to get it right?

The onus is on them to fess up when they mess up.


RAINA FISHER is a child activist, writer and psychologist writing a memoir on parental alienation. She lives on County Home Road near Paris; her email address is rainafisher@hotmail.com.

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