Testing for anabolic steroid use should be considered by the New Zealand Defence and Police forces, a coroner has recommended following an inquest into the death of a 20-year-old Air Force member who died after suffering steroid and stimulant-induced heart failure during a routine workout.

The hospitality and security industries should also consider introducing workplace testing for steroids, the coroner said.

The identity of the deceased man has been suppressed to protect members of his family who were not aware of his steroid use.

Overseas research indicates the use of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) is common among groups such as soldiers, police officers and bouncers. Coroner Carla na Nagara's finding is the first acknowledgement that a similar situation may exist in New Zealand.


Her report states that the risk of death from PIEDs would be reduced if testing for androgenic anabolic steroids became standard practice at "high-risk institutions where physical training and performance is important". Those institutions include the armed forces, police and the hospitality-security industry.

Coroner na Nagara suggested a testing regime similar to that of Drug Free Sport NZ's be considered by defence and police forces.

The Defence Force said it was looking into the recommendations.

While it has mandatory testing for some recreational drugs, the Defence Force does not test for PIEDs. It said it had "policies in place to discourage the use of steroids and supplements and to increase the awareness of service personnel about the consequent health risks associated with using them".

Proof that steroid use was widespread would be needed before armed forces personnel were subjected to mandatory testing, said Labour's defence spokesman, Phil Goff.

Pills containing synthetic steroid methandrostenolone were found in the room of the dead Air Force member. A urine screen found he had also been taking tamoxifen citrate, a drug taken by steroid users to suppress side effects such as testicular shrinkage and breast development.

He also took caffeine tablets and drank four or five cans of Red Bull per day. A supplement he took called Rip Freak contained the now illegal stimulant DMMA.

Coroner na Nagara determined he died of cardiac arrhythmia as a result of anabolic steroid and dietary stimulant use.