Naval Special Warfare Command will start testing its special warfare sailors for the unauthorized use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
The Navy said the program, which begins Nov. 1, aims to guarantee that sailors are functioning at natural peak performance. It comes months after a report following a SEAL candidate’s death recommended the service beef up testing for the drugs, known as PEDs.
The measure will require 15% of a unit’s population to undergo testing for the drugs each month, and sailors will provide two urine samples: one for the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory and another for the standard drug panel through the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory Great Lakes.
“This incremental, random, force-wide testing initiative is far more than a regulatory step — it’s a steadfast commitment to the health, safety and operational readiness of every member of the NSW community,” Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement Friday.
“My intent is to ensure every NSW teammate operates at their innate best, while preserving the distinguished standards of excellence that define NSW,” Davids said.
The Navy will be the first to begin random testing, but Army Special Operations Command said it will soon follow suit, although no start date has been set, the Associated Press reported.
The policy change comes after the command got approval from the Department of Defense and the Navy for expanded authority to perform random urinalysis testing for PEDs in February. Previous investigations into possible steroid use by SEAL candidates led to discipline and requests for more drug testing. But they had always been denied.
According to Naval Special Warfare Command, only three out of 434 Navy SEAL and special warfare combat crewman candidates have tested positive for PEDs since March. Still, the command maintains that number is too high and that any number above zero is unacceptable.
Should a sailor pop positive for performance enhancing drugs, the command legal representative will be notified and personnel will face mandatory processing for administrative separation and potential disciplinary action. The Navy will also pull SEAL/SWCC candidates from training immediately.
Substances that are considered performance enhancing include steroids, human growth hormones and selective androgen receptor modulators, as well as DoD prohibited dietary supplements. Personnel may check here for a full list of barred ingredients.
There are various classes of steroids. Navy policy describes anabolic steroids as “any hormonal substance, chemically or pharmacologically related to testosterone, that promotes muscle growth.” Also banned is “any drug, selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), growth hormone, blood-boosting agent, side effect modulator, or masking agent intended to enhance or conceal the use of anabolic steroids.”
Some sailors may have special needs.
“The unauthorized and unsupervised use of PEDs is what we are trying to identify and prevent,” Davids said. “Nevertheless, we realize that some of our teammates may have legitimate medical conditions that need to be treated with prescription supplementation. If that is the case, we encourage our teammates, who haven’t already, to speak with their medical providers to get diagnosed and properly treated.”
The initiative comes after the death of Seaman Kyle Mullen, a Navy SEAL candidate, in 2022. Mullen, 24, died from acute pneumonia hours after he and his Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) class wrapped up Hell Week, according to an investigation from Naval Education and Training Command.
An enlarged heart contributed to his death and the report found there was no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs. Still, the report noted that he was not tested for steroids and that several vials of drugs and syringes were discovered in his car.
Additionally, the report found that Mullen told his mom he was thinking about purchasing PEDs since he didn’t want to be at a “disadvantage” since other candidates were using them. His phone also contained messages regarding PEDs use and attempts to purchase them, the report said.
The investigation also detailed other problems with the Navy SEAL training program, claiming that medical care and oversight is “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidates at significant risk.” It determined Mullen’s death could have been prevented if these medical issues were resolved.