After Warning Signs, Navy Begins Drug Tests for SEALS

Branch is the first to impose policy on special operations forces
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
Navy Launches Drug Tests for All SEALs, Candidates
This May 2020 photo provided by the Navy shows SEAL candidates participating in "surf immersion" during Basic Underwater Demolition training at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California.   (MC1 Anthony Walker/U.S. Navy via AP)

The Navy announced Friday that it will institute sweeping drug testing not only for candidates to join the SEALs but for all 9,000 current members of its Naval Special Warfare force. That includes all SEALs and their combat boat support crews, who will be subject to random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, the New York Times reports. SEALs found to have one of dozens of substances prohibited by the Department of Defense could be expelled from the Navy. "My intent is to ensure every NSW teammate operates at their innate best while preserving the distinguished standards of excellence that define NSW," Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of Naval Special Warfare, told the force.

The Navy has never tested SEALs for steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs despite the fact that the force has attracted top-flight competitive athletes. In February 2022, Seaman Kyle Mullen, a 24-year-old who had played Division 1 college football, died in training. Human growth hormone, testosterone, and other PEDs were found among his possessions, but an investigation concluded that they played no role in his death. Mullen's death nevertheless raised concerns about the SEALs, including their medical care and training procedures. An outside investigation produced with the Navy's cooperation reported that "Hell Week," the intense training period Mullen was undergoing, was brutal and vindictive, per

"If they tested the teams, we wouldn't have SEAL teams," a former SEAL, Jeff Nichols, said in a podcast interview last fall, per the Times, about the time that the Navy began limited testing of candidates. A spokesman told that just 74 tests out of 2,558 found elevated testosterone levels. Navy documents released Friday maintain that service leaders believe that "any number above zero is unacceptable—whether in training or downrange." The Army, Air Force, and Marines do not have a testing program for their special operations troops like the Navy's, but an Army spokesman said the leaders of that branch want to start one. (More Navy SEALs stories.)

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