Rise in soldiers testing positive for steroid useTwinmuscleworkout steroids investigation last year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord uncovered illegal use of steroids among soldiers bound for Afghanistan, and offers a rare look at what surveys indicate is a rising use of these drugs within the military. Just weeks before his battalion of some soldiers departed for Afghanistan in summerLt. Burton Shields had a disconcerting visit are anabolic steroids legal in the military an Army investigator. One of the suspected users was a battalion captain. Shields, who led the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, was skeptical.
Steroid use on the rise in the Army | The Seattle Times
An investigation last year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord uncovered illegal use of steroids among soldiers bound for Afghanistan, and offers a rare look at what surveys indicate is a rising use of these drugs within the military. Just weeks before his battalion of some soldiers departed for Afghanistan in summer , Lt. Burton Shields had a disconcerting visit from an Army investigator. One of the suspected users was a battalion captain. Shields, who led the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, was skeptical.
He questioned whether Army investigators might have mistaken legal dietary supplements for steroids. But in the days that followed, the captain, as well as a lieutenant, first sergeant and nine other soldiers, admitted using steroids, according to investigative documents that offer a rare look at illegal use of those drugs in the military. Steroid use in the Army has been on the rise amid a prolonged period of warfare.
To prepare for — and perform — on combat tours of duty, some soldiers told investigators they turned to steroids to boost their brawn. The latest Defense Department survey — conducted in — found that 2. One soldier had a scheme for continuing steroid use in Afghanistan through the receipt of mail-order packages that would disguise the drugs in lotion packets.
But to achieve these effects, the steroids are typically taken at much higher levels then those prescribed by doctors. These drugs can raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, and side effects can include mood swings, irritability and increased aggression, which can be a volatile attribute for soldiers headed off to battle. But since , only about soldiers have been tested for steroids, according to Army statistics provided by Chiarelli.
In contrast, the Army conducts random testing of more than , soldiers each year for use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other narcotics. Army officials say the steroid analysis is too expensive to be included in the random drug testing.
While investigating illegal gambling, a Seattle undercover detective encountered a battalion soldier who talked about steroid use and distribution. The Seattle police tipped off the Army Criminal Investigative Command, which had agents interview soldiers.
In the documents released to The Seattle Times, the names of battalion soldiers who admitted to using steroids were blacked out because none of the soldiers were convicted of any crimes.
The soldiers were subject to other disciplinary actions, including an Article 15 punishment slapped on the captain, who was subject to pay forfeiture and up to day confinement to his quarters. Kathleen Turner, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokeswoman, said the captain, first lieutenant and first sergeant who used steroids were subject to disciplinary actions and did not deploy to Afghanistan. He had a needle and was injecting that soldier.
Manzel said about a half-dozen soldiers in his man platoon used steroids. His roommate and several other soldiers took steroids purchased from American contractors who worked at the Mosul base, and they injected themselves with needles provided by medics, he said.
Some soldiers report steroid use among Army Rangers, who repeatedly cycle through war zones for months of difficult duty. The Ranger veteran said he also intended to take steroids but forgot his doses back at Lewis-McChord, so he took them upon his return. He was angry much of the time, quick to snap at his girlfriend, and he found himself on an emotional roller coaster while coming off the steroids.
But he sees value in steroids for soldiers heading off to combat. You need to be aggressive and quick. I would do them again in a heartbeat. The battalion was part of an infantry brigade equipped with eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles. But many of the combat missions in the rural south would require long foot patrols through villages, farm fields and hill country, where loads carried by individual soldiers could weigh more than 90 pounds.
To gain muscle and endurance, battalion soldiers worked out with weights and jogged with armor. The steroids were purchased easily from online Internet sites and delivered to off-base houses. One soldier said he then would distribute the drugs at a gathering point in front of a barrack. After Seattle police tipped them off, Army investigators sought to conduct steroid urinalysis on the entire battalion of some soldiers.
That request was rejected by Army legal officials because there was a lack of evidence to justify it, according to investigative documents. But the Army investigators did conduct more-limited testing, along with interviews of soldiers and officers. Some battalion officers, when interviewed by investigators, expressed surprise at the steroid use.
But another battalion captain admitted to taking steroids twice at his apartment in DuPont. He felt comfortable enough to inject the drug even as a first sergeant in the unit was visiting his home. Then the first sergeant had a change of heart. Offered steroids by the captain, he injected the drugs during a two-month period. The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.
Burton Shields, with village leaders in Afghanistan earlier this year, learned about illegal steroid use among his troops just weeks before his Joint Base Lewis-McChord battalion was to deploy to the war zone in A look at Vancouver, B.
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