A panel of senior Army officers has recommended against an attempt to further punish a doctor who spent seven months in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s jail for a drug-use conviction based on the results of a contaminated urine sample.

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A panel of senior Army officers has recommended against an attempt to further punish a doctor who spent seven months in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s jail for a drug-use conviction based on the results of a contaminated urine sample.

The officers last week sided with Maj. Eric Smith, of University Place, who faced a disciplinary discharge stemming from the July 2011 drug test that led to his conviction, Smith’s attorney said.

Smith, an Iraq veteran, risked getting booted out of the Army with a punitive discharge that could have hindered his ability to practice medicine as a civilian and denied him medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The results from the Army administrative board likely will allow Smith, 45, to stay in uniform. He will reach the 20-year retirement mark later this year.

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The Army I Corps headquarters and Human Resources Command still could overrule the panel and discharge Smith, a Madigan Army Medical Center spokesman said.

“As this process unfolds and until a final decision is made, Major Smith is working at Madigan in a nonclinical position performing administrative duties,” the Madigan spokesman said.

The three-member panel found several reasons to discredit the drug test, including a hair test Smith took in August 2011 that contradicted the results of his urine sample. A more recent test showed a substantial amount of someone else’s DNA in the urine sample.

“There was simply no question at all the man was wrongly convicted and he spent seven months in jail for something he did not do,” said his attorney, Bill Cassara. “That’s time he’ll never get back.”

Cassara advised Smith not to speak with reporters about his status. The News Tribune and The Seattle Times in December published an investigation detailing Smith’s three-year quest to prove his innocence.

That effort gained momentum in July when the Army Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction. However, Smith’s command at Madigan Army Medical Center continued to push for his discharge, citing the positive drug test and a rude interaction he had with a noncommissioned officer in 2012 as reasons to end his military career.

It’s unclear how Smith’s urine sample became contaminated with someone else’s DNA. The Army has declined requests from Cassara and Smith to investigate whether someone mishandled the sample either at JBLM where Smith took his test or on the way to a lab at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii where it was analyzed.

“Somewhere along the line, intentionally or negligently, someone poured a sample of positive urine into (Smith’s) urine sample,” Cassara said. “It’s pretty frightening.”

Every soldier in the Army is required to participate in regular unannounced drug tests. In 2012, the year Smith went to jail, Tripler processed 106,000 tests from JBLM.

A hospital spokesman told the newspapers that Tripler had never reported a false positive test or a contaminated sample.

Most of the time, positive drug tests trigger discipline that can cause an early end to a soldier’s career. They rarely lead to jail time. Smith in 2012 was one of just six soldiers who went to jail solely for drug use.

Smith has not been able to practice medicine because his credentials have been suspended since he tested positive for cocaine. He’s held several administrative jobs at Madigan since he was released from jail in May 2012.

He joined the Army Reserves in 1990. He was commissioned as an officer in 1994 and served as a medical officer in a number of conventional and Special Forces units before earning a master’s degree in public health from the University of Washington in 2011.

At the time of the drug test that led to his conviction, Smith had just finished an alcohol-abuse program. He could have chosen not to undergo the urinalyses because he had a special assignment on the Kitsap Peninsula that kept him away from his unit at Madigan.

A number of supporters have written letters to Army commanders on Smith’s behalf imploring his leaders to acknowledge the evidence he gathered.

One recent letter from a retired colonel chided the Army for its “foot-dragging” in responding to evidence that was favorable to Smith.

Col. Steve Smith, one of Maj. Eric Smith’s former leaders, wrote in December to the hospital’s deputy commander that he was aware of problems in drug testing at the ground level during his time at Madigan.

“Think of Eric Smith as the .001%. In all my years of (military medical) service, his is the only situation I’ve personally been part of in which I’m sure there was an error,” Col. Smith wrote.