Tampering with Tamper-Proof Urine Sample Bottles: How to Beat a Urine Test in Russia (and in the US)

Berlinger Urine Sample Bottle
Swiss manufacturer Belrlinger’s urine sample bottle explained by the NY Times.

I have enough trouble taking the cap off those child-proof bottles for pain medicine. I’m sure it’s not easy to open up one of Berlinger’s urine sample bottles.

The design of this bottle is based on 20-years of experience of designing and manufacturing security bottles according to Berlinger & Co AG, and that the Swiss company “welcomes all endeavours to further investigate these allegations.”

The allegations are that the lab in Russia in charge of testing urine samples of high-performance athletes had figured out a way to open up sealed urine sample bottles in order to switch out tainted urine with clean urine. The New York Times has covered the state-sponsored doping scandal in Russia extensively, and a recent article provided details of how athletes beat the urine tests.

Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released its report on the allegations of Russia’s doping and cover-up of doping, not just of track and field athletes, but all high performance athletes. As a result, the recommendation for a Rio Olympics ban on Olympians from Russia have expanded to all athletes.

As many now know, the head of the drug-testing lab for athletes in Russia was a man named Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, and he described in detail how tainted urine samples were passed through a small round hole in the wall of the testing facility, to be returned with clean urine samples. Before the bottles were returned, however, someone had to figure out how to re-open the supposedly tamper-proof bottles without any obvious evidence of tampering.

famous russian hole in the wall
The now famous Russian hole in the wall.

The bottle, which is part of Berlinger’s “BEREG-KIT”, was designed to be opened only one way once sealed – by breaking the cap into two parts with the use of a special tool in the kit. Somehow, Russians involved in the conspiracy to cover up drug usage figured out how to open the bottles up without breaking the cap. Here’s how the Times explained the process:

In Room 124, Dr. Rodchenkov received the sealed bottles through the hold and handed them to a man who he believed was a Russian intelligence officer. The man took the bottles to a building nearby. Within a few hours, the bottles were returned with the caps loose and unbroken. Dr. Rodchenkov’s team emptied and cleaned the bottles with filter paper and filled them with untainted urine collected from the athletes months before the Olympics.

This made me wonder – what are the ways in which urine tests can be compromised. I thought I would uncover stories only about athletes, but in the United States in particular, needing to cheat on drug tests is far more common than I had thought. I’ve lived in the US for only three adult years, so I was surprised at the level of drug testing that takes place in schools, hospitals and places of employment, very often as a part of the pre-employment screening process.

With a relatively high number of recreational drug users in America comes a need to cover up drug remnants in the system. According to this website, there are three basic ways to “fool” a urine drug test:

  • Diluting a urine sample with water,
  • Substituting your urine, or
  • Adulterating a sample.

Apparently, tampering in the first and third ways are easily detected by lab technicians, but “substitution”, assuming you are not being observed up close when peeing into a cup, is the best way to beat the test. Not only that, the tools to beat the urine tests are available online. I had no idea.

A quick search took me to this product called “U Pass Synthetic Urine” for only $11.74. U Pass comes with a bottle of “100% Toxin Free Synthetic Urine” and two heat pads that can be used to warm the sample just before the test. (After all, you can’t hand a sample of urine to a security person that doesn’t feel somewhat warm.)

u pass

According to the website, THC Clean, subtitled “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for THC Detox & Passing Your Drug Test”, U Pass works and doesn’t work, and that “… you need good quality synthetic urine in order to not get caught.”

But perhaps the most important advice provided in the THC Clean site is that drug tests and drug-cheating techniques are changing all the time: “When reading synthetic urine reviews online and other people’s experience with synthetic urine, on forums and such, it’s important to look at the date. Drug testing evolves constantly, which means the same brands and methods may or may not still be effective. If older than a year, you may want to look for something more recent.”

Drug testing is a cat-and-mouse game, but one in which the mice are sponsored by well financed and highly motivated players, relative to the cats, who always seem to be two steps behind.