Is the military using warships to smuggle drugs?
News that up to 21 navy sailors were allegedly running a drug ring from the Garden Island Navy base in Sydney, and that about 30 more were possibly involved in distributing the contraband, has shone the spotlight into a dark corner of military life.
With recent raids uncovering illicit drugs including steroids, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, the extent of drug trafficking and substance abuse by military personnel is now being exposed and it is not a pretty picture.
The vast majority of navy, army and air force personnel are clean living, law abiding citizens, but for those who aren’t there are many opportunities to take advantage of their status as returning warriors and their mode of military transport to import illegal material.
This is not restricted to drugs and for years the duty free limits on cigarettes and alcohol have been flouted by some personnel returning to Australia on air force flights or navy ships.
While civilian luggage is subjected to layered security screening involving high-tech equipment such as X-ray machines and less technical methods such as sniffer dogs, military personnel are often given special treatment by their uniformed colleagues from the powerful Customs service.
Soldiers coming home on flights landing late at night at military airports, or sailors on warships sailing back to a grateful nation and their anxious families are not subjected to anywhere near the level of scrutiny that civilian travellers must endure.
This lax approach has provided numerous opportunities for criminal elements to ply their trade and the extent of the navy drug ring, operating right under the noses of the top brass at maritime headquarters in Sydney Harbour, indicates that warships have become the platform of choice for the dealers.
The fact that the dominant illicit substance being marketed by the military pushers is anabolic steroids is another worrying development.
Many young men and women in uniform are obsessed with body image and spend hours each day pumping iron and drinking bodybuilding supplements in a bid to gain an edge in the ripped body stakes. Some are even prepared to run the gauntlet of random drug testing and port security to use and import steroids.
The marketing material used by supplement companies provides an insight into the mind set of the body building industry and their buff clients. They openly peddle ``testosterone and growth hormone boosters, fat burners and metabolisers and muscle cell volumisers’‘.
And some firms even use the iconic image of a slouch hat and the Australian flag to promote discounts to members of the Australian Defence Force who they are ``proud to serve’‘.
And what self-respecting iron pumper could resist brands such as Redback, Dymatize, Muscle Tech, Body Ripped, Aussie Bodies or our favourite, Muscle Asylum Project?
At military bases throughout Australia and across the world, larders are stocked with bulk-packaged supplements and gyms are bulging with weight lifting equipment.
At forward operating bases in Afghanistan the muscle building equipment might not be fancy but it is effective. After a hard day’s patrolling, diggers from the Mentoring Task Force settle in for a sweaty session of weights and a long supplement drink often followed by a screening of the latest body building DVD featuring men that look more like the incredible hulk than a human being.
Presumably the top brass have judged that the supplements are safe and that pumped up soldiers are happy campers.
The national obsession with body image has seen the market for illicit anabolic steroids boom in recent years. Once the preserve of elite athletes searching for an edge, the substances are now sold by dealers across the suburban landscape where gyms have sprouted like mushrooms.
Steroids are the best known of all banned substances used by sports drug cheats. Unlike supplements that claim to boost testosterone and growth hormone levels, anabolic steroids actually do just that. They increase protein synthesis within cells resulting in the build-up of tissue especially in muscles.
One indicator of steroid use is body mass index (BMI) and soldiers exhibiting extreme BMI are routinely tested for steroid use.
Using anabolic steroids carries significant health risks and users can suffer from high blood pressure, heart problems, shrunken testicles and psychological disorders including the well documented ``roid rage’’ where they fly into uncontrollable fits of anger.
Last year seven ADF personnel were sent home from Afghanistan and drummed out of the army for steroid abuse. Between 2004 and 2009 a total of 351 military staff were sacked for illicit drug use including steroids. These numbers are not large from a work force of 56,000 people, but they do hint at a growing trend in drug abuse by men and women in uniform.
Defence has a zero tolerance drug policy and the top brass deny that the problem is widespread, but they are concerned enough to expand the random testing regime.
Meanwhile, young soldiers will continue their quest for the perfect supplement and spend hours every day bench pressing twice their body weight or snatching and jerking ever increasing loads as they pack on the muscle mass and cut up the fat in search of that perfect ``ripped’’ body.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…