****Be advised that some links in this article go directly to the Whizzinator and its competitors. These links may involve graphic photos of fake dongs, thereby rendering them NSFW****
On December 2, 2013, Mike Tyson was interviewed by Chelsea Handler on her TV show ‘Chelsea Lately’ for his newly released novel “Undisputed Truth” where he discussed marijuana use during his fighting days, and his techniques for getting around drug testing. The interview included this exchange:
Chelsea Handler (CH): When you had to take a drug test, you took out a fake penis? Okay, how does that work?
Mike Tyson (MT): It works really effectively. It just doesn’t work the way you think it works. But it works if you want to pass a drug test… or… yeah, stuff like that, so, uhm. You take it out and it has somebody else’s urine…. Of course somebody… who uhm … you have to have clean urine in it of course.
MT: And hope it’s not a woman’s urine that’s pregnant and they take a pregnancy test. And, uhm, yeah besides that…
CH: That would be really weird.
MT: Whoa! Besides that, uhm, you just make noise and you normally intimidate the guy by pulling it out in front of him and [he] go[es] “hey hey whoa whoa I don’t want to see…” [you respond] “Oh I’m sorry” Then you do it.
CH: Oh, you pull out your real penis and scare him.
MT: No, not the real one, it’s a fake one.
Years before this interview, in April 2005, Onterrio Smith of the Minnesota Vikings was caught with “The Original Whizzinator” after a bag search at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The device was comprised of a “fake penis, bladder, and athletic supporter” meant to subvert drug testing. This incident became the cornerstone of a congressional hearing in May of that year where Congress discussed The Whizzinator and other drug-test circumvention products that could be easily purchased on the internet and mailed to customers around the country.
So, what is this miraculous product with a snarky name that spooked Congress and enticed athletes, actors, parolees, military personnel, and laypeople alike?
After spending six years in prison for marijuana trafficking in the 1980’s, Gerald W. Wills designed the “The Original Whizzinator.” His company Puck Technologies marketed it as a way for “pilots, truck drivers and others whose safety is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation to beat drug tests.” The product included a prosthetic penis (available in a variety of skin tones), dried urine and syringe, and heater packs to keep the urine at body temperature. They also marketed a female version called “Number One,” which is presumably simpler from an engineering perspective. Their website even had testimonials from satisfied customers explaining how they were able to successfully pass their government-sanctioned drug screenings without detection.
These endorsements, and Puck’s marketing of the Whizzinator specifically as a drug test circumvention measure, were eventually what led to its downfall. Taking artificial measures to defeat a private drug screening may result in termination of employment, but isn’t necessarily illegal. Taking artificial measures to beat certain kinds of government-mandated drug screenings (like those that apply to parolees, airline pilots, military personnel, railroad operators, police, and federal government employees), is a crime. Under that framework, the “Original Whizzinator” arguably became a criminal device as soon as its makers marketed it for circumvention of these legally-mandated drug tests.
As early as 2002, the US Government was getting worried about products like the Whizzinator, and other competitors out there to beat urinalysis-based drug screenings. The government argued that for $149.95, anyone could have an apparatus that keeps clean urine at body temperature that would test negative for drug use. Over the course of time they also observed improvements to the product: earlier models did not match skin tone, but improved models were more sophisticated and harder to detect.
Concern had been growing for a while. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) was investigating as early as 2002. A congressional hearing was held in 2005, mostly buoyed by concerns about doping in sports. The founders of Puck Technologies were ultimately prosecuted in 2009. So, why was the Government so upset about a glorified prosthetic penis?
Well, firstly “The Original Whizzinator” and its competitors were extremely effective. The other answer and goes back to the origins of why we do drug tests in the first place, and for what purposes. Sure, safety is one of those reasons, but money is another.
In 1986, President Reagan signed the Drug-Free America Act 1986 and an additional executive order that established the beginnings of workplace drug testing. This mandate required federal employees and some contractors to be tested as part of the “Tough on Drugs” campaign. This was strengthened in 1988 with another executive order that included technical specifications and mandatory guidelines. But even during the height of the Nixon Administration’s previous drug war escalation, average American workers weren’t expected to drop trough and take the “Whiz Quiz” under the reluctant but watchful eye of a lab assistant. Drug testing was generally undertaken through blood analysis (which is a better indicator of whether any performance-altering drugs are active in the body at the time of testing). Testing was generally limited to workers in critical life or death performance-based professions, or used only for human resources and insurance purposes after an incident involving injury or death, if it was used at all. Where did this all this urinalysis come from?
Along with the Drug-Free America Act came First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, which added drug testing to the policy marketing, and really jump started the “everybody gets drug tested” craze. She gave a public addresses stating things like, “For the sake of our children, I implore you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs… Drug criminals are ingenious. They work every day to plot new and better ways to steal our children’s lives, just as they’ve done by creating crack.” Citing the specter of crack reaching affluent (read: white) neighborhoods and schools, and a handful of incidents involving transportation employees who’d been responsible for accidents while under the influence of drugs, turned out to be all the political framing necessary to get drug testing for a much wider range of American workers, now including workers who weren’t in sensitive positions where their performance could impact safety or security.
This unyielding view on drugs has persisted into the current way we do business throughout the United States. And, like any number of policies derived from the Drug War, it’s become big business regardless of its positive or negative social impacts. In 2014, Quest Diagnostics alone used urine-based testing to screen more than 9.1 million samples for common drugs including marijuana, methamphetamine, oxycodone, opiates, and more. Currently, around 43% of American employees are subjected to workplace drug testing. Drug testing is more prevalent in the United States than in any other nation in the world.
Drug testing has since become a way of life in America in order to gain (or keep) employment in private industries or public sector positions. The rationales for drug testing include:
- Illegal drug use impacts work safety, particularly for critical performance-dependent positions like pilots, truck drivers, train engineers, etc.;
- Substance abusers are more likely to be absent from work, which costs companies more money; and,
- Drug testing inhibits employees from using drugs, which ultimately makes them more productive.
These positions have since been questioned. There is no statistical data that shows any of these claims to be true as applied to casual drug use outside the workplace, but generalized pre-employment and randomized drug screenings are typically employed to catch drug use outside the workplace, instead of being used in response to a specific incident or suspicion that an employee is impaired at work. The tests can also produce false positives, causing workers to be fired, applicants to be denied, or imposing the costs of a second test for the same worker. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states “…workplace drug testing is up 277 percent from 1987 – despite the fact that random drug testing is unfair, often inaccurate and unproven as a means of stopping drug use.”
All this workplace, court supervised, and even social welfare program-administered drug testing has apparently failed to make a dent in America’s illegal drug use. Obviously, the performance-inhibiting drug most often abused by Americans is alcohol, but drug screenings aren’t designed to catch alcohol use outside the workplace. If they do, no penalty is applied unless there are very specific employment rules on alcohol use (such as those that require pilots to abstain from alcohol a certain period prior to going on-duty). In some professions, people even get away with open drinking during work hours, but the same company might fire somebody if a drug screening catches marijuana use during a vacation even when they show up sober and ready to work two weeks later.
In the almost 30 years that these policies have been in place, a lot of money has been spent by the government and private industries to find and locate a small percentage of the population who are the kind of chronic substance abusers whose performance at work will be seriously impacted. Millions of individuals are tested annually. The ACLU said in their congressional report that “a 1994 National Academy of Sciences report found workplace drug use “ranges from modest to a moderate extent,” and noted that much of reported drug use “may be a single incident, perhaps even at events like office parties.”
Ironically, drug testing has been used predominantly to test for marijuana, the most common and least dangerous drug found in workplace toxicology screenings, and the drug which remains detectable for longest even after the impairment window has closed. More than half of American adults admit to trying marijuana in their lifetime. Marijuana’s popularity has caused important police and intelligence agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency to experience difficulties recruiting from younger and college-educated demographics because of their strict policies on marijuana. This has been especially true for recruitment of personnel with cyber security skillsets.
Some Federal agencies already loosened their restrictions a bit in recent years, from automatic disqualifications of any applicant who had admitted using marijuana more than 15 times in their lifetime, to no use within a certain period of time (usually counted in years) prior to their application date. The DEA, unsurprisingly, has not loosened its lifetime drug use disqualification standards for recruitment. Maybe that makes a certain amount of sense: DEA people are presumably around drugs a lot, and we don’t want people who are especially tempted by drugs to be the police handling the biggest drug seizures. Not to mention the possibility that folks who tried drugs in college without becoming addicted or coming to any particular harm, might ultimately feel a little less motivated to pursue DEA’s inflexible anti-drug mission….
The overall message is still pretty contradictory. The President of the United States controls the world’s most powerful policing, intelligence, and military institutions, but our last three presidents have admitted histories that included alcoholism, cocaine, LSD, and marijuana use (among other, arguably more serious vices…) Plenty of other elected officials and presidential candidates have also admitted to using drugs, usually marijuana. The President controls America’s vast national security apparatus, but our last three Presidents might have been disqualified from entry-level positions in the same agencies based on their drug use alone. Needless to say, if they’d been caught on any felony drug charges in their youths, they’d likely never end up in a POTUS way.
I personally have experienced this drug-testing phenomenon. I work as a professional consultant and trainer. I teach adults. A major part of this involves learning computer software and then teaching corporate employees how to use it properly. I do not operate large equipment that could kill anybody. The most dangerous thing I do nowadays is plug my laptop into an outlet. Yet, I have been drug tested three times in the last year with fewer than 48 hours notice in order to fulfill the terms of training contracts. These positions have all been in the private sector. Why do these organizations keep paying $30-50 per test to see if I have used marijuana in the last 3-4 days?
That’s right,3 to 4 days. That is the typical time window for detecting casual marijuana use with a urinalysis test, and unless the employee has used cannabis within the last 24 hours, any impairing chemicals would no longer be active in the system. Similarly, unless the employee is a chronic user, the metabolites wouldn’t be detectable for more than about a week, and even with very chronic use, rarely more than 30 days, give or take depending on metabolism, body fat percentage, or other factors. If you check out the Mayo Clinic list in the previous link, you’ll notice that very few of the “hard” drugs people are arguably more justified worrying about, are detectable as long as regular marijuana use. You can do LSD or cocaine and test clean on a urinalysis test in less than 24 hours. You only have to quit opiates for 3 days to test clean on a urine test. Maybe that’s part of the logic: if you know you’re going to be drug tested but can’t quit opiates for 3 days, you probably do have a problem. But speaking realistically, is opiate addiction a problem more likely to be solved if you lose your job, health insurance, and income?
Other forms of drug testing can catch usage from a longer period of time. Hair tests will catch use 90 days back, or further out, but people are apparently finding ways to hack that too. Basically, the “whiz quiz” doesn’t catch much drug use unless the employee is a regular user, or has extraordinarily bad timing, and it’s much more likely to catch the least dangerous drug than most of the stuff that would be a legitimate concern if the worker was using it outside of work.
The ethics of penalizing people for drug use outside the workplace, or drug use that doesn’t suggest current impairment, really isn’t clear. Detecting a clearly-impairing level of active THC in the blood is one thing, but detecting marijuana metabolites from one, two, or four weeks ago, implies something completely different, and may have no relationship to the worker’s on-duty job performance. This has come up as an issue with impaired driving tests. It is one thing to be tested for alcohol when you are observed driving erratically on the road, and then fail a fairly-administered field sobriety test, and take a resulting Breathalyzer test that shows a 0.12 blood alcohol concentration. That’s a pretty open and shut case: you drove impaired.
It’s another beast entirely when you get pulled over, and following an alcohol screening they convict you for driving under the influence because the test detected light alcohol use from a week prior, with no evidence that you’re currently impaired. Most people would agree that is absurd, but that’s still the procedure for marijuana and other drugs in many “zero tolerance” states. Whereas alcohol testing must show credible evidence of current impairment for a DUI charge to stick, in “zero tolerance” states, drug testing only needs to show evidence that you’ve used drugs at all for a DUID charge to stick, irrespective of whether there is credible evidence of current impairment. In some countries like Australia, police can take a mouth swab to detect any recent drug use without a warrant or any actual suspicion you’re driving impaired. By driving on a public road, they just get to test you randomly if they feel like it. Again, these screening tests disproportionately catch marijuana use rather than more serious drugs. Some “hard” drugs aren’t commonly tested for at all in urinalysis or field tests.
Variation in local, state, and federal marijuana laws increasingly complicates our standards for acceptable and unacceptable drug screening results. Colorado and Washington departed from traditional policy in America when they legalized marijuana use and sales at the state level in 2014. As of 2016, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have some form of legal marijuana use laws on the books. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska legalized recreational use of marijuana; and a number of other states have medical marijuana laws on the books. Ballot measures for medical marijuana, decriminalization, or full legalization of recreational marijuana, are increasingly proposed around the country, and other states are jumping on the bandwagon. All of these state policies still conflict with federal zero-tolerance drug restrictions, chilling the growth of the legal marijuana industries.
As a Colorado resident over 21 years of age, recreational marijuana use would be legal and easily available to me. I could go to one of my local dispensaries and purchase regulated cannabis and treat it like a night of drinking alcohol with the benefit of no next-day hangover. Yet, because of my contract-based employment I am regularly drug tested in and out of Colorado because of these no tolerance policies, so that’s a “right” I don’t have in practical terms. On the other hand, I could walk into my job barely able to function with a wicked hangover after a drinking bender, and I wouldn’t be fired on the basis of any drug test.
The obvious popularity of marijuana, conflicting policies, and incongruous biases against the use of some drugs and the acceptance of others, as well as the serious professional or criminal penalties that some people would face if they failed a drug test, can make some people feel compelled to use products like “The Original Whizzinator” to bypass seemingly-absurd laws and avoid these employment problems or criminal sanctions. It’s understandable that some employers would want strong incentives against impairment in the workplace, but extending drug testing to such a wide variety of American workers clearly comes with a cost, and the benefits are not always clear.
Worse, the penalties imposed on some people for even minor drug use outside the job, can incentivize substitutes or drug testing circumventions which can actually make the problem worse, either because people gravitate to drugs that aren’t commonly tested for (which can actually be far, far, worse than drugs that are commonly tested for…), or they use techniques like the Whizzinator to spoof the drug tests entirely, making the drug use completely undetectable. Sure, it’s best if workers are completely sober on-duty, and avoid using most drugs even when off-duty. But is it better to have them using crap like “Spice,” or “Bath Salts” to beat drug testing for marijuana use, especially if that marijuana use would have occurred off-duty, and the “Spice” might not be detectable even if used on-duty?
These are some of the unintended consequences of widening our drug testing regimes beyond what is really necessary to ensure safety in critical employment positions. When “The Original Whizzinator” went out of business in 2009, it opened the door for other creative circumventions that could be used in its place. People had used DIY methods to beat drug tests for years, but now the DIY options are probably more numerous than any time in the past. Here’s one early DIY example from former NFL player Tony Mandarich, who admitted to steroid use during his career. He explained in one interview that he circumvented drug testing by doing the following:
“For the Rose Bowl in 1988, we were tested two weeks before on campus, and then we heard there was going to be a second test [in Pasadena]. I’d already gotten back on Anadrol-50, a steroid which makes you significantly stronger within a day or two, and now I’m freaking. I’m in this large 24-hour store, about midnight, brainstorming, thinking how am I going to beat this test?”
“In the pet area I see this rubber doggy squeaker toy. I get that, then I go to another area and get a small hose, and in the medical area I get some flesh-colored tape. I’m like the Unabomber getting supplies. Back home I rip the squeakers out of the toy, tape the hose into one end and experiment by filling the thing with water. At the Rose Bowl I taped the toy to my back, ran the hose between my butt cheeks, taped the end to my penis, and covered the hose tip with bubble gum. I had gotten some clean urine from somebody else. The tester stood behind me, couldn’t see anything, and when I removed the gum everything worked fine.”
At the Gator Bowl the following year Mandarich customized a squeezable glue bottle to replace the doggy toy. “A quarter twist of the cap, no leak, no moving parts–it was almost too easy.”
There are numerous low-tech options to evade drug detection. Many people still go old school and just have a friend with clean urine pee into a pill bottle and hold it between their breasts or taped in the crevice of the legs and groin to pass the test, though some urinalysis tests now involve more precise temperature measurements, so the temperature had better be convincing. But we’ve have come a long way since 1988; or even 2009, when the Original Whizzinator went out of business. We don’t necessarily need to use doggy toys and rubber tubes anymore. Current 3D printing technologies enable precision printing using silicone, a perfect material for making lifelike… you know whats. Software and files capable of printing sex toys (including lifelike genitals) are available. Better quality with skin tone matching can be made in your home for less than the $149.95 sticker price of “The Original Whizzinator.” Of course, lower tech DIY stuff might work just as well. Lifelike silicone and rubber dildos available in a variety of skin tones can be purchased around the country. A little drilling and a few additional hacks, and you’ve made your own custom DIY Whizzinator.
But DIY methods may not even be necessary to bypass drug testing in the wake of the “Original Whizzinator’s” downfall because… “The Whizzinator” is already back! After Gerald Wills and business associate Robert Castelano pled guilty to conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia and conspiracy to defraud the United States and then disbanded the Original Whizzinator company, a new company has emerged called Alternative Lifestyle Systems promoting “The Whizzinator Touch.” The product is virtually identical to “The Original Whizzinator.” The key difference is in the marketing and promotion.
“The Whizzinator Touch” can still be used to bypass drug screening and is advertised in many cannabis related webpages, blogs, and articles. Yet, in one of the gutsiest legal loopholes we here at MakingCrimes.com have ever seen, the branding has been changed from drug testing evasion to a kinky sex toy. Their synthetic urine packs are now marketed as realistic “Golden Showers;” the prosthetic penis is now rebranded as a dildo; and the athletic supporter/harness to hold it in place is now a “strap on.”
And this market has diversified. The Whizzinator now has competition like the “Urinator” and the “Ureasample,” that have similarly branded themselves as realistic sex toys. With competition, the products have improved since the Original Whizzinator went out of business. It is now probably cheaper and more effective in most cases to simply buy one of these “sex toys” rather than trying to create a custom do-it-yourself (DIY) version. Nevertheless, the tools and materials for making your own on a DIY basis are also widely available and improving. Let’s say there’s another crackdown on these openly-sold “sex toys that definitely aren’t for beating drug tests,” local DIYers will no doubt be able to make some good money selling DIY versions to clients who need to pass drug screenings.
Some states have tried to make it a bit more difficult to acquire these products legally, and have passed their own laws to stem this amber tide. The “Ureasample” provides this warning to their customers:
“Residents of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, North Carolina and South Carolina may only purchase this kit minus the clean urine and therefore must choose ‘NO SAMPLE’ from the ‘Select Sample Type’ options box below or else your order will be cancelled.
Kits are NOT available in Oregon, Tennessee, Wyoming, New Jersey, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, Florida and Illinois. If you are from one of the aforementioned states and would like to purchase one of our Executive Ultra Realistic kits and samples then you may have it shipped to a friend or family member in a different state.”
So go ahead and call a friend if you live in one of the banned states, and you too can have a “realistic sex toy” that just happens to be perfect for hacking the “whiz quiz.”
Overall, “The Original Whizzinator” emerged as a tool to circumvent a restrictive and inflexible drug testing environment that disproportionately catches users of the most common and least dangerous drug. It annoys lawmakers to this day because it is actually quite effective in enabling individuals to conceal their drug use. Though more and more research is emerging on the possible benefits of marijuana, and voters are making it legal in more states regardless of the research, at the federal level there is still a significant and growing need for adjustment.
The initial criminalization of these tools led to increased DIY options, attempts to criminalize the equipment, creative rebranding of industry products to get around the legislation, and emergence of improved DIY methods for people making their own tools to bypass drug screenings. The Whizzinator, its industry-made competition, and a potentially-limitless variety of realistic custom DIY competitors will continue to find a market until the federal government revisits some of its less-than-realistic standards in the “War on Drugs.”
If you would like to read about some interesting and amusing cases where individuals were caught using the Whizzinator or similar products, here are a few: