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drug testing

10/31/12 4:06pm

Andy Murray Wants More Drug Tests in Tennis

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Murray approves of totally random testing.
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Tennis star Andy Murray is calling for stricter drug testing in his sport in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s doping disgrace. The winner of this year's US Open and a gold medal at the London Olympics has been critical of the testing process before, but he seems to have changed his mind now. "I don't think people look at tennis players in the same way that they would at cyclists because this sport hasn't had the problems they've had," says Murray. He arrived in Paris this past weekend for the BNP Paribas Masters, and was drug tested right away. "They came to the hotel on Saturday and it was completely random," he says. "I think that's good. We're not used to doing that many blood tests in tennis—I've probably had four or five blood tests this year—so it's something that's obviously necessary." The cost of the blood tests can run at up to $1,000 a time, however, adding to the difficulty of increasing them. In 2011, the International Tennis Federation conducted just 21 out-of-competition blood tests—though players can also be tested by other agencies, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, so the exact total is unknown.

Murray believes that the testing process itself could also be improved. "It doesn't necessarily always make sense just to test the guys that are at the top; you need to do it throughout the whole sport," he says. "We get tested throughout the whole year [but] I think the out-of-competition stuff could probably get better." And when someone is caught cheating, Murray wants harsher punishments. In 2010, Wayne Odesnik was caught with eight vials of human growth hormone, but only served seven months of a retrospective two-year ban. "If people are going to go through the process of doing the whole 'whereabouts' thing [players have to declare one hour, every day where they will be, three months in advance] then if people fail the tests, don't let them off and don't say, okay, it's going to go from two years to six months, because that's not how it should work,” Murray argues. "That's what was frustrating for me about it because we're going through all of this and they're being too lenient with guys that are travelling with human growth hormone to other countries. It's just ridiculous."

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By Chrisanne Grise

sober living

10/31/12 3:05pm

Florida Sober Houses in the Crosshairs

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Welcome—or not?—to Delray Beach.
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A new push by the Delray Beach City Commission to regulate the city's large number of current—and future—sober-living houses is underway in the "Recovery Capital of America." The lobbying effort, led by Vice-Mayor Tom Carney, seeks to define just what a "sober house" and a "transitional living home" are, and also make it necessary for the Department of Children and Families to license them. Carney told the Orlando Sun Sentinel, "We want to make sure that those who are profiting from the recovery business are at least delivering on their promise." The worry is that it's too easy for just anyone to open up a so-called sober house, which has led to poor conditions and no oversight in some such facilities.

But some detect a less virtuous agenda: namely, to placate residents who subscribe to a "not in my backyard" view of these intermittently controversial recovery-industry businesses. For instance, another part of the legislation that Carney intends to push in the Florida state capital of Tallahassee would require sober-living houses to prove that they are at least 1,000 feet away from other such facilities. The city has already taken steps to do just that, passing ordinances—in response to news that the Caron Foundation planned to open a sober-living home in a beach mansion here—designed to prevent sober houses from operating in residential neighborhoods, along with other occupancy and permit restrictions. But in May, a federal judge put a halt to those ordinances, saying that Delray Beach may have "unlawfully discriminated" against people in recovery. According to city commissioner Adam Frankel, that's not the case—rather, it's just common-sense rules. He asks, "If hospitals and nursing homes are regulated, why not sober houses?"

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By Hunter R. Slaton

Hurricane Sandy

10/31/12 2:22pm

Drunk Woman Tries to Save Ducks From Sandy

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Drakes in distress? Photo via

A drunken woman from Pennsylvania leaped into a raging creek on Monday night to "save the wild ducks," said police, causing one call-out that hard-pressed emergency services could probably have done without. Clearly unaffected by any storm-induced liquor drought, 41-year-old Justina Lyn Laniewski of Glen Rock, Pa. apparently announced her resolution to rescue the 20 or 30 ducks floating in Codorus Creek—which was nearly flooding—before plunging into the water. Her four-year-old daughter was with her and tried to follow suit. Luckily a neighbor managed to stop the girl, then run to the nearby firehouse for help. Eight firefighters were involved in Laniewski's rescue, and police described her as uncooperative, "intoxicated and somewhat of a problem." She was charged with risking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and released on $5,000 bail. The fate of the ducks is unclear.

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By Will Godfrey

Harm reduction

10/31/12 1:12pm

Should Syringes Be Decriminalized?

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Syringes are being hotly debated in NC.
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Harm reduction advocates in North Carolina are currently pushing for a bill on syringe decriminalization to be introduced to the state legislature. Currently, syringes that are used for (or intended to be used for) the injection of illicit drugs are illegal. Naturally, this doesn't actually stop IV drug use—but it does encourage addicts to re-use or share contaminated needles. Advocates believe that decriminalizing syringes would make it easier for people to access clean needles, and also encourage honesty with law enforcement. “There is a lot of fear in being a law enforcement officer,” explains Ronald Martin, a retired police officer with over 20 years' experience. “There is fear of injury, getting hurt, being killed, so sometimes dialogue can make a huge difference…If a drug user can openly admit he is carrying a syringe, the officer has one less thing to worry about.” 

Martin now travels with staff from the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition to conduct officer safety trainings about handling syringes or other potentially contaminated paraphernalia. He also uses the opportunity to speak about decriminalizing syringes. While some worry about changing the law, surveys show that about 60%-70% of officers are supportive, feeling the measure would increase safety for everyone. “Some cops are resistant to [syringe decriminalization] because they haven’t been exposed to the idea before,” says Martin. “You just have to give them the information, say ‘Hey, one out of three of you will be stuck by a needle. If you could reduce that possibility, would it make sense to do it?’ The benefits are clear if cops have the right information.” There's evidence to back his words: in New Mexico, where syringes are partially decriminalized, needle-sticks to law enforcement have dropped by 66%. Ten states currently exempt some or all syringes from their drug paraphernalia laws, including New York, Oregon and Illinois. “I can’t see anything about [syringe decriminalization] that would make [the drug situation] worse,” says Martin. “It’s a plus for law enforcement safety, community safety, and it minimizes some of the fears cops are dealing with."

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By Chrisanne Grise

hurricane sandy

10/31/12 12:17pm

Hurricane Prohibition Ends in Pennsylvania

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Let's hope they stocked up. Photo via

Hurricane Sandy may have soaked the tri-state area and beyond with torrential rain and record-breaking floods, but it left Pennsylvania dry for two days, as all 600 of the state's liquor stores were closed down. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which controls the statewide sales of wine and liquor, decided to keep all liquor stores closed in order to "assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy." The monopoly also forbids PA residents from importing booze from neighboring states, in order to save on tax revenues. But of course, hurricanes and booze go hand in hand for many drinkers, forcing those desperately-seeking-booze to break the rules yesterday to obtain alcohol from liquor stores just across the border. "We're open for convenience," said Gary Brady, manager of Canal's Discount Liquor Mart in Pennsauken, Camden County; this store, and others in New Jersey and Delaware, are common destinations for Pennsylvanians hoping to illicitly sneak bootlegged liquor back in to their home state, where the taxes on alcohol are much higher. Most of Pennsylvania's liquor stores have reopened today.

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By May Wilkerson

coffee addiction

10/31/12 10:59am

Coffee Addiction Is No Joke

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The Foo Fighter got too buzzed.
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Coffee is one of the world's most common addictions. While it may seem innocent, the beverage contains caffeine (a drug), and for some people a daily java habit can spiral out of control. Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has admitted that a 2010 spoof video he made about his caffeine habit was based on a real incident that had him hospitalized. “We were in the studio making a record and I was drinking a lot of coffee," the singer recalled, "and I started having chest pains, so I went to the hospital and they told me to stop drinking so much coffee.” Cindy Grassin, an addiction specialist who works at a drug and alcohol rehab in California, tells The Fix that many people are unaware of the dependence you can develop on the seemingly benign beverage. “People don’t realize how addictive coffee can actually be,” she says. “Especially for those that have an addictive personally, monitoring coffee intake is important.” Grassin advises people to treat java just as they would any other substance. “Coffee is a drug. Period,” she says. “Because of this, you need to treat it that way by consuming it in moderation, and getting help if you, or those around you, feel you may be addicted.”

Because drinking coffee is an integral part of so many people's daily lives, its dangers may often go unnoticed. “No one ever thought I had a problem because coffee is such an acceptable addiction in our society,” Daniel from Northern California tells us. “At one point, I believe I was drinking a cup of coffee an hour. And it wasn’t just black coffee—I would change it up with Frappucinos, lattes, and lots of coffee ice cream.” Ultimately, Daniel's addiction landed him in the hospital, where he came to realize the severity of his problem. “I was having severe chest pains, and doctors said my adrenal glands were shot. I’m glad I got help when I did because according to them, I was on my way to a heart attack. I was also having panic attacks all the time, and my heart rate was through the roof,” he says. “Since leaving treatment, I stick to only water. But I still love the smell of coffee.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

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