The U.S. Navy in November will start randomly drug testing special operations forces for steroids amid concerns about recruits and service members looking to boost their capabilities during training.
The Navy said in a release that starting in November, every month it will randomly test up to 15 percent of its special forces in the Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes about 9,000 troops.
Those testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs without a legal reason will face disciplinary action.
While steroids are banned without a legal prescription, testing for the drugs is not common in the military and for the rest of the armed forces, it is not included in random drug tests.
The news on Friday marks the first time steroid testing is conducted in the military for a random screening instead of during a probable cause review.
Rear Adm. Keith Davids, who commands Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command, announced the plan in a message to his troops on Friday. Davids requested an exemption from the Pentagon for random drug screening for steroids, which was approved in January.
“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,” Davids said in a statement.
The news comes after the death of a Navy SEAL candidate who died last year after he completed “Hell Week” training.
Seaman Kyle Mullen, 24, under the Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL class, had undergone extreme exhaustion and high-intensity training before he died in California.
There has been no conclusive evidence that Mullen used steroids during his training process, which may have contributed to his death. But a report earlier this year from the Naval Education and Training Command found Mullen was not screened for certain drugs and that syringes and drug vials were found in his car.
The report also identified that performance-enhancing drugs were a problem during Navy special training and recommended random drug testing for steroids and other prevention methods, such as better education on the drugs.
The Navy SEALS are among the most elite special forces troops in the world who undertake some of the most difficult operations for the U.S. military.
While the Navy encourages difficult training to ensure troops are prepared for high-risk missions, the report released this year said trainers are too focused on weeding out candidates instead of properly training them.