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Nigella faces drug test to go to US

Nigella Lawson faces the humiliation of being drug tested to prove she is clean if she wants to visit the US.

The celebrity cook was barred from boarding a flight to Los Angeles at the weekend after her courtroom admission she took cocaine and cannabis.

The US embassy in London has now invited her to apply for a visa. But law experts have warned officials are likely to insist she is tested for illegal substances.

Lawson, 54, would then have to be examined by an embassy-approved doctor and provide a clean blood or urine sample before she could be cleared to travel to the US again. Her television career in the States — she has recently been a judge on the American version of cookery show The Taste — is now in peril.

The Daily Mail revealed on Wednesday how Lawson was stopped from getting on a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles on March 30. She was barred under strict American laws, which technically exclude any foreigner who admits committing drugs offences in their home country — even if they were never charged or convicted.

Lawson confessed during the trial of her former assistants in December that she had snorted cocaine seven times and smoked cannabis in front of her two children.

The TV cook told the court she last took cocaine in 2010 to cope with the “intimate terrorism” of her then-husband, Charles Saatchi, 70. But she admitted she had smoked cannabis “in the last year of my marriage to Mr Saatchi”.

The couple divorced last July, suggesting Lawson may have used the drug within the past 12 months. This could prove significant for the US authorities, who will insist on drug tests if they believe she has a recent history of narcotic abuse.

Steven Heller, a US immigration lawyer based in Britain, said: “A drugs test is pretty much standard if there is a suggestion of recent drug use. Certainly if there was something within the past year, they would send her for a drug test.”

It is understood that as of Wednesday Lawson had not applied for a visa through the US embassy in London. But once she does, she will be invited to attend a face-to-face interview with a consular officer. She could then be told she needs to attend a medical examination with embassy-approved doctors in Knightsbridge.

Adults seeking a visa in London must pay £235 (Dh1,431) for a basic medical examination and £48 for a drug test, according to a document on the US State Department’s website. According to one former visa applicant, Lawson may have to go through the degrading experience of being watched as she provides a urine sample to ensure her drug test results are not faked.

Lawson is thought to have tried to enter the US on March 30 under the visa waiver programme, whereby travellers must register online and confirm they have never been arrested for or convicted of certain offences. The specific grounds on which she was barred entry have not been officially confirmed. She is now expected to engage lawyers to ensure she can travel freely to America, which she visits regularly both for pleasure and for work.

Lawson insisted during the trial of her housekeepers, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo that she had never been a habitual user of illegal substances and maintained that she was now drug-free.

US border officers appear to have hardened their position since the start of January, when Lawson was allowed to fly to New York to film an interview promoting the second series of The Taste USA.

A spokesman for the US embassy in London said: “There are several ways of legally travelling into the United States and Miss Lawson has been invited to come to the embassy and apply for a visa for travel to the US.

“We understand she has professional requirements for US travel and these matters are generally handled routinely and expeditiously.”

Lawson’s spokesman declined to comment.