Millions of drugs and medications – natural, herbal or synthetic have been used by the society since the very beginning. Before proper documentation of drugs began, different cultures were using these medicines in their religious practices and healing. For instance, Mushrooms, Peyote and Cannabis were the known therapeutics of the earlier age. Also, South Americans were initially known to have used Datura (a rich source of Belladonna Alkaloids) for different ceremonies and practices. Many of them chewed coca leaves to revive the rekindling effect of cocaine.
In the 19th and early 20th century, cocaine was permitted to be used legally. No wonder, the North Americans and Europeans kept it in their household to be used as a restorative tonic or even as sedative known as tincture ‘Laudanum’. Opium was commonly traded amongst these two major nations. However, the trade of Opium was potentially controlled in the early 20th Century by the passing of regulations and laws such as Smoking Opium Exclusion Act in 1906 and in the 1915, by passing the Harrison Narcotic Act.
It is well documented and commonly known that drugs are used as well as misused by the society. It is also generally seen in historical events that many sportsmen have commonly misused drugs to enhance their performances. Most prominently, in the Roman and Greek Olympic times, European sportsmen used drugs to metabolically strengthen themselves in order to augment their performances. Cyclists were known to use cocaine, caffeine and strychnine in their 6 day long races. A Welsh trainer, Choppy Warburton, has to face dire disgrace when he gave Strychnine to his cyclists. Sportsman Tommy Hicks, in 1904 almost died when his trainer gave him Strychnine prior to a race. This brought the attention of authorities towards the misuse of drugs. However, the ultimate finality to drug testing was drawn in 1967, when the famous cyclist, Tommy Simpson died during Tour de France. He had heat stroke, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance and toxicity related to methamphetamine concentrations as a result of Strychnine.
When drug abuse testing was initiated, it was very difficult to carry out the procedure. Prior to gas chromatography technique, urine testing was done which was comparatively a complicated procedure. Primarily, TLC – Thin Layer Chromatography was done to detect the presence of opiates and amphetamines in urine. However, it was still very complex to detect the presence of cannabinoids in urine. After the availability of Gas Chromatography technique, urine testing of drugs became comparatively easier. After the development of this technique in 1960, a ‘cat and mouse’ game was developed between the athletic community and the International Olympic Community regulators who operate these testing procedures. Moreover, a similar type of drug testing race also occurs between drug testers and workplace drug consumers.
The US military initiated the major procedures for drug testing when their troops started having drug abuse problems due to their easy access to drugs like heroin and marijuana. This resulted in the spread of drug abuse problem, and the US army developed arbitrary drug testing programs to work against this problem. They found that about 20 to 35% of their troops were using heroin with about 15% of them being addicted to it. These random testing programs were limited to TLC, immunoassay and spectrofluorimetry which were able to detect amphetamines, barbiturates and opiates easily. After 1970, methaqualone, cocaine and phencyclidine were added to these techniques. In due course, cannabinoids were also added to the testing procedures by using GC and FID – Flame Ionization Detection. However, many false positive results were given by immunoassay techniques and GC and FID were not totally reliable either as they produced false negative and false positive results. Therefore, later, GC/MS technique was evolved to test and confirm the drug testing results.