Rise in soldiers testing positive for steroid use

More soldiers using steroids

There has been an increase in soldiers testing positive for steroid use while serving in the army, according to new figures obtained exclusively by Newsbeat.

A Freedom of Information request has shown that in 2013 the number of failed tests increased by five times from around 20 to 100, since steroid testing started in 2008.

The Ministry of Defence suggests that as operations are winding down in Afghanistan, troops may be turning to the drug in their spare time.

It says it has a zero tolerance policy with clear guidelines.

Steroids can help build up muscle mass quickly, meaning you can train harder and for longer. The side effects include hair loss, heart problems and acne.

Newsbeat has been shown drug test data for the last ten years for the Army, Navy and RAF.

Recreational drug detections (cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy etc.) have either stayed constant or gradually declined.

There was also a slight increase in steroid detections within the RAF.

A former soldier, who wanted to remain anonymous, has told Newsbeat he "lost his career" because of his steroid use.

The serviceman was discharged from the army after steroids were discovered on his property.

The Army's Director of Personal Services, Brigadier John Donnelly
The Army's Director of Personal Services, Brigadier John Donnelly

He said: "It was one of the first times I had done it, so obviously there were doubts in my head, but I went ahead with it because I wanted the gains."

The soldier was one of around 40 other people to lose his job over steroid use in 2011.

"I definitely regret it because I lost a career which I could have been in for years," he admits.

"There were a fair few lads who were always on steroids in the army. There were loads of them that do not get caught, and that is because they are careful about it.

"When they are on tour, if there is downtime, they go to the gym, and when they are in the gym there is the chance to get big, and come back off tour looking bigger and stronger."

Anabolic steroids are Class C drugs which are only meant to be sold by pharmacists with a doctor's prescription.

It is legal to possess or import steroids as long as they are for personal use, but they are banned by the MOD and it is against the law to sell or supply them to others.

The soldier said: "I went to a nutritional shop where I was based, and just asked the bloke behind the counter if there was anything stronger than what was he was selling over the counter. He gave me his number and said to contact him later."

The ex-soldier says any weight he put on after using steroids he lost "pretty quickly" and also suffered side effects like acne.

Professor Chris Cooper teaches Biochemistry at the University of Essex and explains that any positive aspects of taking steroids would wear off very quickly.

Professor Chris Cooper, the University of Essex
Professor Chris Cooper, the University of Essex

"There is a massive increase in power for the soldier, but that is going to have a limited benefit.

"Being a soldier is a highly technical and highly endurance based role, so I would say taking anabolic steroids would have no use at all."

The Army's Director of Personal Services, Brigadier John Donnelly says the reason the MOD bans steroids is because of the health implications.

He said: "There's this great stuff called food which contains the balance of all the nutrition and vitamins you need, for the most arduous training you can do."

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