Dr Pascal Kintz is a world leader in drug and alcohol testing. He acts as DNA Legal’s Head of Toxicology, and is often called upon to provide expert analysis on cases across the globe.
In 2004, his team examined the suspected poisoning of Ukranian politician Viktor Yushchenko, who had fallen ill during an election campaign.Testing confirmed that the presidential candidate had been poisoned with dioxin, most likely intentionally.
In 2009, Richard Gasquet was suspended from professional tennis when traces of cocaine were found in his urine sample. However, Dr Kintz’s hair analysis showed no proof of drug abuse, and it was concluded that involuntary ingestion likely occurred when Gasquet had kissed a girl in a nightclub. The suspension was immediately lifted.
Here, the renowned scientist explains why he is known as the ‘Father of Hair Testing’ and how he has pioneered new pathways for toxicology.
David Nicholson: Dr Kintz, please tell us what fascinates you about drug and alcohol testing, and why you've dedicated your career to this field.
Pascal Kintz: It’s a mixture of science and crime, and I enjoy the investigation process. You never know what you’re going to find in advance, and there’s no limit to the poisons or drugs that can be discovered.
Hair is like a historical calendar, containing evidence of all substances one consumes long after they’ve disappeared from the blood or urine. Chemicals attach themselves to the hair and stay there, so with hair growing at approximately one centimetre per month, you can judge a client’s drug history over a prolonged period of time.
My work helps to find certainty and truth, and I am happy to contribute to the justice system in such a positive way.
DN: What makes you the leading expert in hair testing?
PK: I graduated with a degree in Pharmacy in 1985, and achieved my PhD in Forensic Toxicology in 1989. I was aware of many disputed cases and several reports of inconclusive evidence, so I made it my mission to fix the problems.
There was little uniformity or standard practice, which is why there was much confusion and ambiguity, so the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) was formed in 1995. I was one of the founding members and President from 2008-2012. As such, I have contact with most hair testers around the world and I am often called upon to give my advice.
"This is about justice and equality for individuals"
The aim has always been to share knowledge and pioneer new approaches, ensuring as a profession we continue to record accurate results and offer expert analysis.
I have edited two journals on the subject of hair testing and drug detection, and have published over a hundred peer-reviewed papers on the topic. I guess this is why they call me the ‘Father of Hair Testing’.
DN: How do you determine the truth in disputed cases?
PK: It is important to consider the full picture: looking at the personal background to each case whilst also taking into account factors which may cause skewed results.
Bleaching or chemically-treating hair will remove some evidence. In other cases, you may see positive results recorded, even when the client hasn’t consumed for several months. This is because the metabolites remain in the hair, so it is important for testers to follow SoHT guidelines to ensure they provide accurate findings.
In one case, Mr W faced losing his job after testing positive for MDMA use. He protested that his drink had been spiked, but a counter-claim accused him of being a regular user.
We were called to give an expert witness report and our research indicated a single high exposure to the drug was more likely. The allegations of drug abuse could not be proved and Mr W kept his job.
DN: How important is it to get the right result first time?
PK: This is about justice and equality for individuals, so it’s imperative to always get accurate results. Also, getting the correct result immediately will prevent losing time and money on further tests.
Thanks to Dr. Kintz for taking the time to talk to us. If you're in need of drug or alcohol testing, contact DNA Legal for expert advice and your own peace of mind.