US Navy SEALs and the boat crews who support them will be subject to random testing for steroids, human growth hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs under a new program adopted in the wake of last year’s death of a recruit who was believed to be using such substances during “Hell Week” training.
The Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command announced the new testing mandate on Friday, saying the additional drug screening will begin on November 1. The program will expand upon the urinalysis testing that is already done for such illicit drugs as opiates and methamphetamines.
“My intent is to ensure every NSW teammate operates at their innate best while preserving the distinguished standards of excellence that define NSW,” Rear Admiral Keith Davids said in a statement. At least 15% of service members in each unit will have to be tested each month, and commanders will be allowed to impose unannounced testing sweeps for all of their troops at the same time.
Those who are found to be using PEDs may be discharged from the Navy. The NSW Command encompasses about 9,000 service members, including all Navy SEALs.
The announcement marks the latest reform enacted by naval special forces since the February 2022 death of recruit Kyle Mullen, who went into cardiac arrest hours after completing the most grueling portion of the SEAL qualifying course. The investigation into his death revealed that he and other recruits had been using such PEDs as testosterone and human growth hormones. Mullen’s heart was found to be double the weight of an average male heart.
Read more: Pentagon’s increased use of special forces
Davids, the NSW commander, called the new testing initiative a “steadfast commitment to the health, safety and operational readiness of every member of the NSW community.” He added that without proper medical supervision, illicit PED use can lead to injury, long-term health problems or death.
Testing will be required not only for SEALs and candidates in training, but for all members of naval special forces. Service members told the New York Times that many sailors have used PEDs to gain an edge in the intensely demanding SEAL selection course, and doping remains widespread even after successful candidates join their SEAL teams.