Williams' 'detox' potion claim causes commotion

Updated: July 28, 2004, 9:59 AM ET
By Tom Farrey | ESPN.com

The NFL says there is no way players can beat its drug test for marijuana by drinking liquid masking agents, as Ricky Williams says many players around the league routinely do.

Those who make the substances suggest the NFL leadership is, well, smoking something.

"I'm sure they believe what they say but the fact of the matter is we have been helping people pass drug tests for 14 years," said Tony Wilson, spokesman for Spectrum Labs. "We wouldn't be in business that long if we were selling snake oil."

Williams, before boarding a plane to Asia and embarking on his NFL retirement, said he was flagged by the NFL for a positive drug test because he neglected to use a special liquid beforehand that masks marijuana use. Williams wasn't specific about which product he prefers, but said the use of such so-called "detoxifiers" is common among players.

Spectrum Labs, whose product line goes by the name "Urine Luck," is one of many companies that market masking agents that allegedly help people pass drug tests. For marijuana, their top product is Absolute De-Tox XXL Carbo Drink, designed specifically for people weighing more than 200 pounds. On its corporate Web site, ads for the liquid claim a "99.6 percent success rate" for passing drug tests.

A 32-ounce bottle of the potion, which looks like red fruit juice and sells for $45, is neither approved nor governed by the Food and Drug Administration. Users are instructed to ingest the entire contents of the bottle one hour before a drug test, and drink 32 ounces of water 15 minutes later.

"That allows the body to pass a urine sample that is clean," said Wilson, who claims that some professional athletes have used Spectrum's products. Wilson, though, won't identify the players.

Putting vast amounts of fluids into the body shortly before a test would dilute the urine sample to the point where alarms are triggered, said Greg Aiello, NFL vice president for public relations. Diluted samples are considered positive tests under NFL rules.

"They're not beating the test," Aiello said. "The only way to mask urine in the test is by drinking large amounts of water, which would register as a positive anyway."

NFL players with no drug violations are tested once a year, between April 20 and Aug. 9, Aiello said. The team trainer is notified the night before each test that a position group of players -- no names are provided at that point -- must undergo screens the next morning.

Players are observed while providing their urine sample. That type of monitoring discourages the use of synthetic or other people's urine that can be dumped into the collection cup as a proxy. "If monitors are doing their job, there's no way to beat that," said Frank Uryasz, president of the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which conducts the NCAA's testing program.

But players still could attempt to alter the quality of their own urine.

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is stored in a body's fat cells for anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on the size of the person and the frequency of use. Drug tests look for metabolites that show the use of pot, while also evaluating the sample to determine if it meets standards consistent with urine.

Masking agents, their makers claim, hold the chemicals in the body. To make the phony, washed-out sample appear like true urine, products like Absolute De-Tox XXL Carbo-Drink also are loaded with creatine and other elements that drug tests look for, Wilson said.

"If our products can beat every other test done at hospital-level labs, I can't see why they wouldn't work on NFL tests," he said.

Aiello and drug-testing experts remain dubious of such claims. But not Williams, who reportedly said of his failure to take a detoxifying liquid, "I was an idiot."

Either way, Williams no longer has to consider such reefer madness. He's somewhere in Asia now.

Tom Farrey is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at tom.farrey@espn3.com.

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