(CN) – A Spirit Airlines pilot was properly stripped of his pilot and medical certificates after a random drug test revealed traces of cocaine, morphine and heroin in his system, the 11th Circuit ruled.
Jeffrey R. Swaters joined the airline in 1999. In February 2007, he and his crew made a series of flights to and from Puerto Rico, Florida and Jamaica. The last flight landed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Swaters was met at the gate by an airline manager who told him he’d been randomly selected to take a drug test that afternoon.
Swaters’ car allegedly broke down on the way to the testing facility, so he was instructed to drive to another testing center that was open until midnight. His urine sample was collected at 8:47 p.m.
It came back positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine; morphine; and 6-monoacetylmorphine, a metabolite associated with heroin. The substances were detected at concentrations that far exceeded the “cut-off points” allowed under federal regulations.
Swaters denied taking the drugs and insisted that his sample must have been tampered with. No one had observed anything unusual about his behavior, he argued. His sample was tested at another facility at his request, but the second lab reported the same results.
The Federal Aviation Administration responded by revoking his Airline Transport Pilot and First Class Airman Medical certifications. An administrative law judge and the National Transportation Safety Board upheld the agency’s decision.
After reviewing the expert testimony, the Atlanta-based federal appeals court concluded that the lab technicians had followed the proper procedures.
“We are hard-pressed to see how Swaters’ sample could have become corrupted” at the testing centers, Judge Marcus wrote. “The most that can be said in petitioner’s favor is that he succeeded in raising the possibility that the sample may not have been his.”
However, the court concluded that this possibility alone did not render the board’s decision “arbitrary and capricious.”