Dear Friend and Fellow Athlete,
New statistics show that steroids are on the rise in the military - especially among the army and marines. And with no end in sight for the Middle East conflict, lots of military are using steroids to get bigger and stronger just so they can survive this brutal war.
Since 2001, the war in the Middle East has claimed thousands of soldiers’ lives. Unfortunately, with no end in sight for this war, the Middle East conflict will continue to claim lives as our soldiers fight in unfamiliar territory.
This being the case, I’m all for any advantage that soldiers can use to keep themselves alive - even when it comes to the army and marines using steroids. After all, being bigger, faster and stronger keeps soldiers alive, so why not let the military use steroids to increase their chances of surviving this brutal war?
Of course, not everyone shares my view that soldiers should be able to use steroids to get stronger including many army leaders. This story was revealed in a recent article I read in the Seattle Times, which has been circulating throughout other major media outlets too. In fact, the article even pointed out how the army is wasting time and money trying to root our members of the army and marines who are using steroids.
A Growing Trend
The Seattle Times story I read began by document a case where military soldiers from the 4th Army Battalion, 23rd Infantry were being investigated for illegal steroid use. Apparently, a Seattle detective talked to a solider who narced out the 4th Battalion for using steroids. The detective contacted the Army Criminal Investigative Command so they could follow up on the tip.
The investigators uncovered that several military soldiers in the 4th Battalion were using steroids on a regular basis. The leader of this Army battalion - Lt. Col. Burton Shields - didn’t quite believe his men were using roids, and instead suggested that they took dietary supplements with steroids in them. However, this notion was quickly disbanded when 12 military soldiers in the battalion admitted to using steroids (one was an army captain, one was a lieutenant and one was a first sergeant).
What’s shocking is that the military soldiers told investigators they believed over half of the 700 soldiers in the 4th Battalion had used steroids at some point. This is quite a contrast from a 2009 Defense Department study that said only 2.5% of military soldiers were using steroids, which is still a jump from 2006 when 1.5% of military soldiers were juicing.
All in all, it looks like steroid usage is on the rise in the Army... and for good reason.
A Matter of Life or Death
Out of the 12 military soldiers that were busted for using steroids, most of them said they used anabolics to prepare for combat tours and increase their chance of surviving on these tours. So is this really such a bad thing when you’re lugging around huge backpacks full of equipment and hiking for miles all while people are trying to kill you?
Apparently so according to the Army after they forced the captain to pay forfeiture and remain in his quarters for 30 days. In addition to this, the captain, lieutenant and first sergeant were all kept from going on a campaign in Afghanistan; the other military soldiers were subjected to undisclosed punishments not documented in the Seattle Times article.
Perhaps these punishments are a bit stiff considering many of the missions “require long foot patrols through villages, farm fields and hill country, where loads carried by individual military soldiers could weigh more than 90 pounds,” as referred to by the article.
One soldier who was hassled by Army investigators about his steroid usage said, “I wanted to get stronger. I knew we were deploying. We had this road march through the woods, and I almost fell out, and they had to take my weapon ... I wanted to make sure that didn't happen over there.”
Another solider who was interviewed by the Seattle Times told the paper that several military soldiers in his battalion were juicing, and he would’ve used anabolics too, but he forgot his steroids back home. However, he began using them again when he got back and said, “While I was doing them, I doubled in size.” When asked if he regretted taking steroids, the solider said, “There is a broad spectrum of things that could kill you in a war zone. You need to be aggressive and quick. I would do them again in a heartbeat.”
Seeing as how most military soldiers feel roids are quite useful, it’s no surprise that people are turning a blind eye to Army steroid usage.
As the Seattle Times story pointed out, steroid use during the Middle East wars isn’t much of a secret to those stationed overseas. In fact, one solider named Seth Manzel, who served in Iraq, told the paper, “No one really hid this. I walked into a squad leader's room one time, and he was with another soldier who had his pants down around his ankle. He had a needle and was injecting that soldier.”
Manzel went on to add, “If a captain sees his soldiers getting stronger at a quicker rate, that's not necessarily a bad thing.” He also documented how several people in his platoon bought steroids from American contractors and used needles from medics to inject their anabolics.
Even military soldiers who wanted to keep their steroid usage hidden had little trouble doing so. One person had the steroids sent to him through the mail in lotion packets. So with both open and disclosed steroid usage going on in the Army, will the federal government waste money by doing more steroid tests? Let’s take a look...
While many military soldiers and even some of their superiors don’t see a big problem with using steroids to pack on muscle for campaigns, others aren’t so understanding. Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli told the Seattle Times, “The use of steroids is a short-term gain for long-term problems that individuals are going to have, and we cannot tolerate them in any way, shape or form."
Fortunately, the tough stance by Chiarelli and others on steroids hasn’t resulted in much actual steroid testing. Chiarelli said that only 300 military soldiers have been tested for steroids since 2008, which pales in comparison to the 450,000 soldiers who’ve been tested for cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
At a time when many high schools and colleges are revamping their efforts to catch a few juicers here or there, I’m thankful that the military isn’t worried about steroid testing. It’s an obvious waste of money as evidenced by the costs ($240 to $365) associated with testing for anabolic steroids. On the other hand, testing for other drugs can be as low as $8, which isn’t going to rack up nearly as large of a bill.
Is Army Steroid Usage Really an Issue?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Seattle Times article, and I’m glad that it didn’t take the opportunity to bash steroids with all sorts of non-educated quips and myths used by other writers. However, I’m still thinking about one thing: should juicing in the Army really be made into a big deal?
I think there’s bigger issues at hand regarding the Army such as when our troops will be home. After all, the Middle East conflict has been going on for over 9 years now and if we wait much longer, it will be as long and drawn out as Vietnam.
Furthermore, it just doesn’t make sense for military soldiers to be barred from using steroids when they’re in a career where their life is at stake. Honestly, if a soldier can make it from Point A to Point B two seconds faster because of steroid use, this could be the difference between living and dying.
We’re taking something that’s been demonized in society because athletes can get an edge, and trying to deny military soldiers the freedom to juice. All I can say is that I hope steroid use in the Army and Marines doesn’t blow up into a bigger issue than where it’s at now.
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Yours in sport,