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Coroner urges sports bodies to introduce hair strand tests to determine long-term drug habits

On February 26th, coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox cited hair analysis should be more widely employed to monitor drug misuse amongst sports professionals . The coroner was reporting on the inquest held for cricketer Tom Maynard, who died on railway tracks near Wimbledon last June. Tipped as a future international, the inquest heard that tests on hair samples indicated Maynard may have been a regular drug user up to three-and-a-half months before his death.

“Hair analysis provides a long-term profile of drug use.” explains Doug MacSween, General Manager for Trimega Laboratories, the UK’s leading scientific hub for hair testing. “Hair records drug use over weeks or months in comparison to the days or hours that a urine sample would provide. Each centimetre of hair equates to approximately a month’s growth, so a 3cm length of hair will profile about 3 months history of drug use or abstinence.” Mr MacSween says.

Trimega’s laboratories use liquid-chromatography mass spectrometer analysis to detect drugs in hair, or LC-MS. When someone ingests a drug, it is dissolved into the body and circulated via the bloodstream. Every hair follicle has its own blood supply, so any drug traces in the blood will feed into the core of the hair, and after about a week, that hair will grow out of the skin.

LC-MS can detect as low as picograms of drug metabolites in hair samples - that’s a trillionth of a gram – and their accuracy is relied upon in courts for inquests, child protection and custody cases across the UK.

“Each biological sample type is useful in different contexts.” Mr MacSween adds. “If it helps an inquest to know whether someone had a lifestyle that included regular drug use, then hair analysis is a proven tool that will help inform the coroner. Likewise, if a sports body really wants to check how significant a drug issue there is in their particular sport, be it recreational drugs or steroid abuse – then employing hair tests will gain a broad and accurate profile of drug misuse.” he concluded.


Editor’s Notes

About Trimega Laboratories

Established in London in 2005, Trimega Laboratories is a leader in the development of innovative techniques for testing for substances of abuse. Its core business is laboratory-based analysis of hair samples that provide accurate historical records of alcohol or drugs dependency over a one to 12 month period. In the UK, Trimega’s core clients include: family law specialists, law courts, and social services.

In 2012 Trimega Laboratories launched the UK's first ever Steroid Hair Test.

The current rules governing 'doping' in sport detail that a doping violation is deemed to occur on the finding in a body a prohibited substance, a metabolite of a prohibited substance, or a compound chemically or pharmacologically related to a prohibited substance.

In most cases, urine is the specimen of choice, but recombinant human erythropoietin and related compounds or hormones can be detected in blood. To date, hair is not accepted in doping control, although France passed in 2001 a law allowing biologists to use this matrix to document doping (décret n˚ 2001-35 from 11 January 2001).

The major practical advantage of hair testing compared with urine or blood testing for drugs is that it has a larger surveillance window (weeks to months, depending on the length of the hair shaft, against two to four days for most xenobiotics).

Trimega was also the first to market with dual-marker hair alcohol testing (FAEE and EtG). Dual hair testing provides very accurate results: at its annual conference in March 2011, the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) confirmed that dual testing on hair for alcohol misuse provides accuracy rates of over 94%, with less than 1% risk of a false positive, and just 5.75% risk of a false negative. The SoHT’s consensus was based on analysis of Trimega’s data set of approximately 2,000 dual hair testing samples, the largest of its kind in the world.

Trimega has won many awards, and most recently was one of 25 companies to represent the UK in the 2011 European Business Awards.

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