When people want to become professional athletes, they have to make all sorts of awkward changes to their lives. No more pigging out on mid-week takeaways, nor whiling away Saturday nights by getting battered in the pub. If you want to get to the top, it’s a full time commitment.
Included in the obvious vices that need to be cut out are a whole range of illegal substances. These can range from performance enhancing Human Growth Hormone to powerful narcotics such as cocaine. In the latter case, anyone caught using, regardless of their relative athletic prowess, could end up in serious trouble. As everyone who’s ever been in a car accident and been through the rigmarole of a drugs test knows, authorities tend to take substance abuse pretty seriously.
Ordinarily, if you just ignore the drugs in question, you will be absolutely fine. After all, no one could possibly accuse you of indulging in something you’ve never even considered taking. Unfortunately, as the recent case of a new mother in Maryland proves, sometimes even this isn’t enough.
After giving birth to her daughter in April this year, Elizabeth Eden was informed by doctors that something was wrong. During labour, her blood tests had revealed that she had tested positive for opiates. As is normal with anyone found to have abused dangerous narcotics during pregnancy, Ms Eden was informed that her newborn daughter had been removed from her care and that she herself had been reported to the state.
Ms Eden was inconsolable. Pleading with doctors, she said she didn’t understand how she can possibly have failed the test, and insisted that there must have been some mistake. However, the hospital were adamant that no mistake had been made, and kept Ms Eden’s daughter for a further five days as she tried to fight her case.
Eventually, the source of the confusion became clear. It transpired that a poppy seed bagel, which Ms Eden had eaten on the morning that she gave birth, may have been the cause of the positive test result.
Poppy seeds, which are used to manufacture drugs such as morphine and heroin, have been shown to contain enough opiates to cause a false/positive drug test result. There are several other documented cases of poppy seeds being involved in an instance of mistaken identity - though admittedly few serious enough to cause a woman to become separated from her child.
We know relatively little about the presence of potentially harmful substances in the poppy seeds we eat. In May of this year, a report commissioned that though most of the opium alkaloids found in the seeds don’t pose a serious health concern, one - known as thebaine - may present more of a threat.
However, Queen Mary University professor of clinical pharmacology, Dr Atholl Johnston revealed that, despite containing low levels of potentially dangerous chemicals, "It is unlikely that a single poppy seed roll, or even a dozen rolls, would result in an individual ingesting enough morphine to have a pharmacological effect." On the other hand, Dr Johnston did also point to a correlation between poppy seeds and positive drugs tests. Something to bear in mind, next time you’re choosing your bagel.
After the trauma of her ordeal, Ms Eden was delighted to receive full custody of her child back after the mix up had become clear. In this case, at least, poppy seed bagels did not do any serious damage. Nonetheless, as Ms Eden’s case proves, there’s more to this snack than meets the eye.