The US military will begin conducting random drug tests on its special forces, including Navy SEALs and Army’s Delta Force, Green Berets, and Ranger Regiment, to detect the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Rear Admiral Keith Davids, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, stated that the testing is crucial to safeguard the health of soldiers and maintain military readiness. The Navy will initiate random testing in November, while the US Army Special Operations Command will follow suit at a later date. The US Air Force and Marine Corps special forces commands have not yet requested a similar testing policy.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs has been a persistent problem across the US military, although it has been limited in scope. However, military leaders have been hesitant to implement increased testing protocols. Until now, occasional tests were conducted when there were concerns about individual service members, but routine, random testing required special permission from the Pentagon. Under the new policy, four military units will be randomly selected each month, and 15 percent of the personnel within these units will be tested. This could result in up to 200 sailors being tested monthly, and those who test positive will face disciplinary actions or removal from the force.
The announcement of random drug testing was prompted, in part, by the death of Navy SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen in early 2022. Mullen collapsed and died from acute pneumonia shortly after completing the SEALs’ rigorous Hell Week test. Although no performance-enhancing drugs were found in his system, an investigation revealed that he had not been screened for certain steroids due to a lack of available samples. Additionally, multiple vials of drugs and syringes were found in his car. A broader investigation into SEAL training highlighted the use of performance-enhancing drugs as a significant issue among aspiring elite commandos and recommended stricter testing procedures. The new random testing process will require sailors to provide two urine samples, one for testing at the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory and one for screening at the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory Great Lakes. Positive test results will lead to disciplinary measures and potential removal from service.