Death of Matthew Dear and Manufacturing Steroid Hysteria in the United Kingdom

matthew-dearDeath of Matthew Dear and Manufacturing Steroid Hysteria in the United Kingdom
by Millard Baker

Teenage bodybuilder Matthew Dear died on April 20, 2009 reportedly from an overdose of anabolic steroids. The parents of Matthew Dear were the first to attribute their son’s death to anabolic steroids. The news of Matthew Dear’s “steroid death” was initially reported by “The Daily Mirror”, a British tabloid but was soon picked up and legitimized by mainstream UK media outlets such as BBC News, the Daily Mail, and the Sunday Times. Could the steroid-attributed death of Matt Dear spread steroid hysteria throughout the United Kingdom much like the death of Taylor Hooton affected the steroid discussion in the United States?

The assertions that anabolic steroids were responsible for causing enlarged pupils, blindness, intoxication, severe abdominal pains, convulsions, brain swelling and kidney failure are pretty outrageous. These side effects are not medically substantiated adverse effects of anabolic steroids. Matthew Dear’s doctor even told the parents that he never witness any such reaction to anabolic steroids. The parents of Matthew Dear nonethless felt compelled to blame anabolic steroids.

Chris and Tina Dear unbelievably solicited the “anabolic steroids are responsible for killing my son” story along with a picture of their son on his death bead to the British tabloid “The Daily Mirror” prior to the death of their son. Journalists should recognize that the grieving parents of a dying child are rarely reliable sources for the medical causes of a suspicious death. The parents are not medical experts and would not have more insight that the attending physician. While we sympathize with the family of Matthew Dear and recognize that individuals deal with unexpected loss and grief in different ways, we can not condone the unsubstantiated allegations that anabolic steroids caused the unusual death of Matthew Dear (”Parents’ warning over steroid death of marine cadet teen Matt Death,” April 21).

Mum Tina, 41, said: “He was my baby. and I can’t believe this has happened. We just hope that by sharing our pain over his tragic death we can help save someone else’s life and make them think twice about taking steroids.”

Dad Chris, 43, added sadly: “He was such a good kid – pure gold. He lived for joining the armed forces. But our healthy, strong son fell to pieces before our eyes because he took steroids.”

Chris and Tina Dear and the British press have exploited the death of Matthew Dear in an almost deliberate attempt to manufacture steroid hysteria in the United Kingdom. The message heard around the world was “anabolic steroids caused Matthew Dear to die.” But a few days later, father Chris Dear backed away from that assertion by acknowledging that it may not have been the anabolic steroids themselves responsible for his son’s death, but perhaps a “rogue batch” presumably contaminated with some toxic substance (”Parents of steroid death teen fear he was killed by ‘rogue batch’,” April 22).

“The doctors told us they have never seen anyone react like that to steroids. We believe they were a rogue batch.”

Chris Dear still desperately wants to blame anabolic steroids and appears prepared to crusade for their further criminalization under UK law as Class B substances like amphetamines; anabolic steroids are currently categorized as Class C drugs in the United Kingdom. Chris Dear’s legislative qualifications and medical expertise on anabolic steroids are based on suffering the death of a son. In other words, his expertise can not be questioned (”Matthew Dear’s dad wants steroids reclassified as class B drugs,” April 22).

“These people don’t realise how many lives they wreck. I don’t think anyone can understand the loss of a child, unless they’ve lost one themselves.”

Chris Dear is convinced anabolic steroids are dangerous. He is convinced that anabolic steroids killed his son.

It doesn’t matter that a contaminant may ultimately be the cause of Matt Dear’s tragic death. When milk products were contaminated with melamine, no one proposed banning and/or criminalizing the sale or use of milk. When spinach was contaminated with salmonella, no one proposed banning and/or criminalizing the sale or consumption of spinach. The irrationality of contemporary steroid hysteria is apparent when possible contaminated batches of anabolic steroids justify the call for criminalizing steroid use.

Rather than demonize anabolic steroids, it would be much more productive to campaign against the risks inherent in the underground markets created by the criminalization of steroids. William Llewellyn, steroid expert and author of Anabolics 9th Edition, explains the risk of obtaining anabolic steroids from the black market in a recent position statement posted on the Body of Science website (”Position: Underground Steroids,” April 27).

The VAST MAJORITY of bulk steroids coming from China are produced in chemical companies. Imagine if you will a company that makes pesticides, synthetic dyes, or other manufacturing-level chemicals, and one day said, “You know what, we can make steroids in here if we want”. These chemical companies are not licensed to produce drugs, and do not have to comply with even the minimal of GMP guidelines. They are not inspected. Rarely do they have the capacity to produce very pure products. Still, they very often do produce drugs. In fact, it is estimated that HALF of all drugs sold in China come from this illegal chemical market. This number is significantly higher with anabolic steroids. […]

So, in short, it is my opinion now, as it as been for a very long time, that consumers:


The real story is that it is not necessarily the anabolic steroids themselves that are dangerous but the unregulated nature of the black market that results from their criminalization. By desperately trying to blame steroids for the death of Matt Dear, the most important and likely indicators are often overlooked.

Steroid scare tactics that try to convince people that anabolic steroids will cause blindness, intoxication, abdominal pains, convulsions and brain swelling will be no more effective than the masturbation scare tactics attributing hairy palms, insanity, epilepsy, heart murmurs and asthma to sexual self-stimulation. An honest approach to education is usually more effective.

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