The Washington Post suggested that Islamic State recruits lift weights and use anabolic steroids in a recent article about Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist training camps. With a single sentence – “a set of dumbbells lay in a hallway of the center, and half-used packs of steroids in one room” – journalists from the WashPo Baghdad Bureau offhandedly demonized the muscle-building drugs as something used for malicious purposes by terrorists.
The items were discovered in the “Sheikh Abu Samaya Ansari Camp” near Mosul after Iraqi counterterrorism forces took control over the nothern section of the city. It was the first glimpse inside an Islamic State military training center.
The discovery provided insight into the methods of training involving conventional warfare and guerilla warfare along with religious indoctrination. Numerous documents were discovered that detailed ISIS’ choice of weapons and recommended equipment for fighters sent on missions. For example, a checklist advised each group of fighters to take two TNT mines, 10 molotov cocktails, two smoke bombs, night-vision goggles, binoculars, a knife, torch, lighter, first aid kit and pen and paper on its military operations.
The “half-used packs of steroids” could have been anything. They could have been corticosteroids like prednisone or dexamethasone. Of course, the mention of “steroids” in the same sentence as “dumbbells” clearly implied they were anabolic steroids.
The media regularly attempts to connect anabolic steroids to violent acts of terrorism. It promote the intended perception that only bad guys use steroids. Whether it’s wife-beaters or murderous individuals, the media likes to demonize steroids as something bad guys do.
In recent years, the media linked Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik to steroids after he admitted using Dianabol and Winstrol during training for his July 2011 rampage that resulted in the death of 77 individuals. It also linked the Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen, who killed 49 individuals at the Pulse gay nightclub, to long-term steroid use based on testimony given by an ex-wife and former co-workers.
The discovery of steroids at an ISIS training camp provides the first step for anti-steroid crusaders to link steroids to ISIS-inspired terrorism. And it reinforces the biased media narrative of anabolic steroids as a tool used only by the very, very bad people in the world. In this manner, steroids are used to further demonize terrorists and terrorists are reciprocally used to further demonize steroids.