LONG NECK, Del.- The news came as little surprise to Ashley Beardsley, a 23-year-old cook who lost her job in late October after failing a drug test; a separate test of an herbal tea Beardsley drank came back positive for cocaine.
"I wasn't surprised at all," Beardsley said. "I knew that it was going to test positive for cocaine but I didn't know the levels were going to be that high."
Beardsley said she worked for nearly five years as a cook at the American Veterans Post in Long Neck. From day one, she insisted drinking Delisse Coca Tea from Peru triggered the positive result and she did not do cocaine.
After the story first aired on WBOC-TV, chemistry professor Miguel Mitchell at Salisbury University volunteered to test the tea for free. Beardsley said she previously sought the assistance of Delaware State Police who declined to test the tea because it was not part of an investigation and the testing cost can reach into the thousands of dollars.
Mitchell said after three hours of testing, the tea returned an exact match for cocaine. The results also showed the sample contained nearly 6 percent cocaine, an unusually high concentration, Mitchell said.
In order to be certain, Mitchell said he inspected the tea bag for rips or tears before actually brewing a cup. A computer reading of the chemical compounds matched that of cocaine. Mitchell provided Beardsley with a copy of the results.
Beardsley purchased the tea at a farmers' market in New Castle County. A small Peruvian flag is located on the box. Internet searches for the manufacturer yield few results.
Immediately following her termination, Beardsley said she wanted her job back. But she said after weeks of trying to prove her case, she has changed course.
"Now that I realize I'm not getting my job back, I woke up now and I'm ready to move on with my life," Beardsley said.
A manager at the Amvets Post has not returned calls for comment. Beardsley said she believes management is concerned about other terminated workers challenging their drug tests. She said that is one major reason she likely will not be back.
"I just don't want my name to be out there as the girl who lost her job from doing cocaine because that's not what it was," Beardsley said. "It was all over an herbal tea. It was healthy, I was trying to be healthy and drink herbal teas and it came down the wrong way."
Reported by Michael Lopardi
November 23, 2010
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