Think steroids are just for gym rats and million dollar NFL players? Look more closely… You know that war on terror we’ve been engaged in for the past 3 years? It may not be as much a search for weapons of mass destruction as for weapons of mass construction – namely, anabolic steroids!
Steroids in the military are not anything new. Ever since Dianabol (D-bol) was introduced in the 1950s, they found their way to the lockers of macho men both in the gym, and in the barracks! But just how prevalent is AS use in our various divisions of military special forces? From the Army Rangers to the Navy SEALS to Delta Force… Are these tactical wunderkinds engaged in heavier, or more regular, AS use than PFC Joe Blow who sits around waiting to be deployed via the National Guard? The answer is: Very likely!
And let’s face it, men in the special forces have even more reason to use AS than someone in the more traditional corps, given steroids’ properties of recovery and regeneration – things so crucial to being a capable physical specimen. Fact is, very few make it in our military’s Special Forces, so the drive to be selected and pass muster in the training phases is even greater.
To be selected for something so elite as the Navy Seals or Special Forces is a feather in anyone’s cap in every way, but staying there may be an even bigger fight. Competition to be accepted into this sort of program is staggering, but the fight to stay in a special military unit is even bigger. Nearly 60% of all of those candidates accepted, pull out of training at one point because they either can’t make the grade physically or aren’t strong enough to cut it mentally; or both.
That’s why anabolic steroids (AS) have been seen as a viable solution and can be helpful to those candidates who might not otherwise be able to remain. In fact, large numbers of men in various professions that require physical assertion and self-confidence – such as police, fire fighters, military, etc.. – consume steroids because of their ability to boost stamina and endurance, increase muscle mass and a sense of accomplishment, as well as aid in quick recovery. But one reason they have been so useful to candidates in elite military programs is their ability to produce a kind of "invicible mentality" when performing the physical duties required within their unit.
When your body is instrumental to you being able to carry out the duties of your job, steroid use is often the best option to increase physical capacity and conditioning rapidly. Protecting and serving is clearly dependent upon a body’s ability to perform…to fight…to run…to swim…to do whatever is necessary to preserve security and safety. Could humans be as capable without them? Probably not within the small window of time given for training.
Steroids in the military – particularly in these special corps – is often shrouded in secrecy and mystery, simply because the general public sees steroid users in a particular light. Most see them as unemployed bodybuilders, deadbeats, or degenerates. Fact is, this condemnation and judgment of steroid users as deviants is ill-conceived. Some would suggest that these drugs are instrumental to the job, so could be regarded as "instrumental pharmacology".
One retired Navy SEAL candidate was quoted anonymously as saying, "If people only knew how much was required of someone in a tactical military group like the Seals, they’d understand that AS use is crucial to the health of our military’s select units, simply because there would be far fewer men there to protect our country without them."
A model county deputy from Ohio, and former Gulf War Marine Corps veteran, who was convicted of steroid possession in 2003, said that he had imported the drugs from over seas as effective therapy to combat his Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). When asked his reasoning for using AS, he replied, "I never wanted to look like Arnold, I was just tired of being tired and wanted to feel better."
But despite the obvious health benefits of AS, our society, like many, takes a prohibitionists view of drugs. We have so much abuse of drugs that have no redeeming value, such as Methamphetamine, that it’s easy to make the jump to associating AS drugs and drug use with deviancy as well. But this kind of use does not presuppose a character defect. And if, in fact, a Special Forces or Navy Seal candidate is representative of the cream of the crop of the United States, then anabolic steroid use might be seen as enhancing something already potentially good, and making it great – or even more reliable and strong.
Remember, AS are not perception-altering substances that create distorted parallel or divergent realities. AS are chemicals that create greater physical fitness and support physical resilience. From a physical standpoint, AS support the goals of the elite military enforcers we fund via the tax dollar. Some would say that AS use in the military actually gives us even more for our money.
But the downside is this unresolved conflict, and what people worry about with AS use at these levels of military, is simply this: Self-absorption, distortion of perceived physical threat, over-the-top aggression, and an egocentric mentality that can result from AS use, is seen by some as a time bomb ready to explode in the hands of those who wield the most power and are authorized to use deadly force.
Is AS use the reason that soldiers in Iraq were photographed physically, sexually and inhumanely abusing Iraqi prisoners? Is it why we see more violent hand-to-hand combat situations in today’s military battles? It’s difficult to ascertain. But what is clear is that sports figures who use AS and are caught, are treated as reprehensible, while police officers who do the same are not.
The truth is, when AS is used for physical reasons only, and is used as a support, not an means to an end for aggression or feeling overly powerful, the use seems much more justified. To derive benefits of increased strength, faster metabolic rate, increased protein uptake, a general sense of well-being, and faster recuperative powers is not ill-founded for someone with an arduous physical job, and one so important as in our military’s Special Forces.
Sadly, our society has a profoundly ambivalent attitude toward synthetic hormone drugs that produce visible results, such as hypertrophied musculature. On one hand, we have all but accepted athletic doping of male hormones because it produces the performance we pay to see. We have become so accustomed to this level of play that we are not willing to pay top dollar to see less. On the other hand, we ostracize those same athletes when they are caught, and villainize them as poor role models for our children. We want to win the war on terror, but are ready on a moment’s notice to publicly stone military officials who are exposed as steroid users. As a society, we need to decide who we feel about steroid use once and for all.
Is there any way to monitor AS use in the military? Well, if men in the Special Forces are using AS, the military doesn’t want to know about it and turns a blind eye. Quite frankly, this is possible because AS users do not exhibit obviously disordered behaviors unless they have a problem and are abusing them. The only answer, short of millions of dollars spent on testing, is to investigate only those cases of hyper-aggression. Are certain things better left unsaid? We’ll leave that up to you to answer.