Md. National Guardsman fights disputed drug test Volunteering for test starts trouble for guardsman.

March 12, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

In the course of his six years with the Maryland Army National Guard, Specialist Chris Millard has taken dozens of drug tests. All came back with negative results.

So when his superiors asked for additional urinalysis volunteers last September in order to send a round number of samples to the lab, Mr. Millard didn't think twice before participating. "I volunteered because I don't use drugs, so I didn't think there would be a problem," he said.

He was wrong. His sample -- or a sample that had his name on it -- came back positive for cocaine. Now he faces disciplinary procedures and may be dishonorably discharged from the national guard.

Mr. Millard insists he is clean and that his sample was switched and mislabeled. He has waited almost six months for a hearing before a board of officers so he can clear his name, but a date has not been set. He also has not been able to obtain documents detailing the testing process to which he is entitled.

And in the meantime, he still reports for duty once a month at the Annapolis Armory. But his right to attend an officers' training school has been suspended, his security clearance has been revoked and he has been denied access to the equipment he needs to do his job as voice intelligence analyst.

Instead, he spends his duty weekends sweeping floors, cleaning vehicles and putting together wall lockers.

"They're unwilling to admit they made a big mistake and I'm the one whose going to get punished because of it," said Mr. Millard, 29, who operates an executive car detailing service in Reisterstown.

National Guard officials would not comment on the specifics of Mr. Millard's case, but said that a board of officers has been appointed and he should soon have an opportunity to defend himself.

They also provided an explanation for the seven-month delay: There was no money budgeted to purchase documentation from the testing laboratory that could shed light on whether a mistake was made with Mr. Millard's sample.

The National Guard had a contract with the testing lab to pay for the urinalysis bottles and the testing, but not for a litigation packet that would show who took the sample, where the sample went and how computations were made, said Major Pere J. Jarboe, staff judge advocate for the Maryland National Guard. That money was finally budgeted in January and the information has been obtained and the hearing process should now go forward quickly, he said.

It will not be quick enough for Mr. Millard, who said none of this would have happened if the correct testing procedures had been followed.

According to National Guard regulations, the soldier undergoing the drug test must show identification before being issued a bottle. The person must urinate into the bottle in the presence of a monitor to ensure that samples are not switched.

The person being tested then puts a lid on the jar and is given a seal which is put over the lid. The person signs a piece of tape which is put on the side of the bottle and signs a log, making sure to check the number on the bottle's label so it matches the number in the log.

"That's not what happened this time," Mr. Millard said. There was no monitor to watch while the people being tested urinated in the bottles and several people were tested at once, instead of doing it one at a time.

Finally, several specimen bottles were placed together on a table before being labeled. It is at this point that Mr. Millard thinks his specimen was mislabeled.

"Samples shouldn't be grouped together for obvious reasons, because what happened to me can happen," Mr. Millard said. "People were joking about it, it was so bad."

He has collected affidavits from 35 people who were tested that day and who agree that the procedures were lax. He said he will present those at his hearing.

If Mr. Millard can present a convincing case that the testing was flawed, then there is a good chance that he can be cleared, Major Jarboe said. "That would have to be looked into as well. We have to abide by our own regulations," he said.

And even if the results of the drug test are upheld, Mr. Millard will not necessarily be given a dishonorable discharge. He may be honorably discharged, or he could even be retained if the board finds he has made an effort to pursue drug rehabilitation, has a record of good service and shows potential for productive future service.

The delay in proceedings will not prejudice Mr. Millard's case and may even work to his advantage. "That gives a soldier an opportunity to show that he is working with his commander, to show that he is working toward rehabilitation or to show that his character is inconsistent with drug activity," Major Jarboe said.

But Mr. Millard feels that he is being pressured to resign from the National Guard.

"What they have said is 'why fight this, we'll give you an honorable discharge if you'll just take it and leave,' " he said. But if he chooses to fight the charge, the Army prosecutor will pursue an "other than honorable discharge" against him.

"What's occurring is not right," he said. "And it definitely should not happen in this country."

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