Special report: More Kiwis will die from steroid use, warns sister

By Steve Deane

Nation 'needs to wake up' to dangers of performance and image-drug culture.

Further investigation has found that use of anabolic steroids is increasing - and not just by athletes and body builders. Photo / Getty Images
Further investigation has found that use of anabolic steroids is increasing - and not just by athletes and body builders. Photo / Getty Images

Steroids have claimed the lives of at least two New Zealanders and more are likely to follow unless something is done to address the country's burgeoning performance and image enhancing drug (Pied) culture, warns the sister of one of the victims.

Johanna Chamberlain was 21 when her depressed younger brother, Kris, committed suicide after quitting the anabolic steroid propionate salt of testosterone.

Now 35 and a mother of two, Mrs Chamberlain has warned of the consequences of steroid use.

"People need to wake up," Mrs Chamberlain said.

"It isn't just the Lance Armstrongs, Nadzeya Ostapchuks and rugby heroes taking these body- and mind-altering drugs. Our ordinary young New Zealand men and women are getting lured into a drug scene that seems to be thriving."

In April the Herald revealed that new-generation peptide Pieds were flowing into the country largely unchecked.

Growth hormone peptides could be bought cheaply over the internet and the country's border controls and laws appeared inadequate to deal with increasing importations.

Further investigation has found that use of anabolic steroids is increasing - and not just by athletes and body builders.

"Average Joes" who simply want to look good now have easy access to a wide range of Pieds, a convicted steroid dealer says.

Justin Rys, a former body-building champion who was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2006 for importing and distributing the drug fantasy - used by body builders to counter the side effects of steroids - says illegal Pieds can be obtained at just about any gym in the country.

Steroid use in New Zealand now mirrored Australia, Rys said.

"Over there they use steroids, growth hormones, everything, and it is just a recreational thing," Rys said. "It's just like girls using a sunbed. It's insane the amount of people that use it over there. In New Zealand it is just starting to get like that now."

Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show steroid seizures at the New Zealand border reached record levels last year, with 122 seizures - double the total from 2011. Growth hormone and peptide seizures were also the highest on record.

"Back in the old days [in New Zealand] it was just the hard-core athletes who were using," Rys said. "These days you've got the Average Joe, the person who just wants to look good and has just started off at the gym, using it. The numbers have just gone through the roof."

Accessing Pieds had also become much easier online, Rys said.

As well as damaging physical side effects, steroid use has been linked to depression and psychosis.

Over the next two days the Herald tells the stories of two young Kiwis whose deaths were directly linked to steroid use.

A coroner's inquest ruled Kris McKenzie's suicide in Invercargill in 1999 was a direct result of his steroid use.

Five years later, another Kiwi teenager, Kieran McNamara, took his own life after developing a mental illness attributed to his steroid use.

Growing problem

NZ anabolic steroid importation seizures by year

2008 - 79
2009 - 83
2010 - 91
2011 - 61
2012 - 122.

Tomorrow

Steroid use: The elephant in the room.

- NZ Herald

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