Tougher drug tests urged after steroid death in military

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 09:15 13/12/2013

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The New Zealand Defence Force has been told to improve its drug testing procedures after a Manawatu military man died after taking a lethal cocktail of steroids and body building supplements.

And while the Defence Force says it discourages the use of those products, it has refused to confirm if it tests for illegal steroids - something which was not happening as recently as January this year.

In a report released yesterday, Coroner Carla na Nagara said the man died from a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by the use of steroids and supplements.

The man, whose name was suppressed, was about to take part in a gym session in September 2009 when he started feeling dizzy and sick. He was given the option to go to a medical centre, but he decided to push on. He collapsed near the end of the session, made choking noises and died.

An autopsy found there was nothing physically wrong with him, and a blood test came back negative for drugs and alcohol.

But a search of his room unearthed various unidentifiable pills.

Tests found some contained methandrostenolone, a synthetic anabolic steroid which promotes muscle growth. A test of the man's urine came back positive for signs of steroid use.

Friends said they did not know he took steroids, but one said the man had talked about getting some and wanting to be a body builder with a physique like actor and former Mr Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That friend also knew the man took body building supplements like "Rip Freak" and "Super Pump", as well as caffeine pills and up to five cans of Red Bull a day.

Rip Freak carries an illegal substance which has been known to cause strokes and significantly increased blood pressure.

Drug expert Paul Quigley said the man's use of Rip Freak would also have contributed to his death.

Ms na Nagara said the man had been able to avoid detection during his time in the defence force because it did not test for illegal steroids.

If it had been testing for them, instead of just looking for recreational drugs, the risk of him dying would have been far lower, she said.

She recommended the Defence Force and other groups where physical training and performance was important - such as the police force and hospitality security - should be tested in the same way as athletes.

A statement from the New Zealand Defence Force said it tried to discourage the use of steroids and supplements.

Despite questions from the Manawatu Standard, the Defence Force did not confirm or deny if it tested for steroids now.

However, according to information released to the Standard under the Official Information Act this month, the Defence Force was not testing for illegal steroids as recently as January this year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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