Disgraced footballer to undergo drug testing by hair analysis every three months

Disgraced footballer Ben Cousins to undergo drug testing by hair analysis every three months

Celebrity, drug-troubled Australian rules footballer Ben Cousins was back in the news this week. Australians may remember he was sacked by his team in October after being arrested and charged with possession of an illegal drug and refusing to submit to a blood test. This was followed by fleeing from a scheduled stint in rehab in Los Angeles to go on a 5 day cocaine binge.

This week, he was hired by a new football team with several very specific conditions. Thirty year old Cousins remains on a one-month good behaviour trial, and risks instant dismissal if he breaches a strict disciplinary code which includes providing up to three urine samples a week and a hair-follicle test every three months for drug testing.

The hair follicle test to which a news article referred is a legitimate test used to detect drug use and as such will be used to monitor his enforced abstinence. As I described in a previous blog, and in episode 7 of The Zone, when conducted correctly, hair analysis is a high-end powerful diagnostic test, used in forensics and toxicology studies.

Procedures involved in the detection of drugs in hair specimens are either the same or slightly modified from procedures used for the detection of drugs in urine, blood or other biological samples (1). Preparation of samples is critical since hair not only absorbs drugs and alcohol metabolites from the blood but also from the air (e.g., marijuana smoke, pollution).


Simplified structure of hair. Depending on moisture content it contains 65-95% protein (keratin), 15-35% water and 1-9% lipids. From (1).

Hence, thorough washing procedures are required usually with organic solvents followed by extended washing in phosphate buffers (ref. 1 and see table below). Following this, hair is digested to its constituent components, primarily amino acids from the protein keratin. Several methods are used to break the bonds between the amino acids including the use of acid (hydrochloric), alkali (sodium hydroxide) or enzymes. Analysis can then be conducted using gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, or immunological methods (1), all high-end, complicated chemistry techniques.

I should have guessed it wouldn’t take long for the woo people to jump on this recent publicised use of hair analysis to lend legitimacy to their “quantum technology” allergy testing by hair analysis.

Check out this little gem I found on one woo website. Note these are the same people I watched with disdain work their random-allergy-generator at the recent Mind Body Wallet in Sydney for AU$195 a pop.

“..Hair analysis testing is becoming widely spread as an exceptable (sic) form of testing and measuring. Ben Cousins (the footballer) has to submit a hair sample each week as his testing proticol (sic) for drug consumption”.

table-1I don’t know about you, but I certainly would not trust someone with my health, who a) can’t spell and b) can’t get their facts straight (as stated earlier, the hair-follicle test is to conducted every THREE months, not each week). Further, the test which they use has nothing to do with the techniques which will be employed by the Australian Football League (AFL) to ensure Ben Cousins remains on the wagon. That is apart from the name, since you can be certain the AFL will use real science, not woo (see table, right).

As I have stated before, you can NOT diagnose allergies by stuffing a piece of hair in a beaker and making lights flash and dials flicker. Even if the device allegedly uses quantum technology (which it doesn’t).

Reference: (1) Vassiliki A. Boumba, Kallirroe S. Ziavrou and Theodore Vougiouklakis. Hair as a Biological Indicator of Drug Use, Drug Abuse or Chronic Exposure to Environmental Toxicants. International Journal of Toxicology, (2006); 25:143–163.

* Asterik indicates a complete lack of either washing or digestion of hair samples by a provider I witnessed at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival in November, 2008, Sydney Australia. I have since been unable to confirm whether woo practitioners undertake these procedures at all.

Thanks to Moose for the tip-off to this story.


Subscribe to comments Comment | Trackback |
Post Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Browse Timeline