The Navy SEALs allegedly took Viagra for a very strange reason

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Picture by Greg Mathieson/May/Getty Images

Navy SEAL training is excruciatingly difficult, and an investigation by the New York Times this week sheds new light on the extreme measures candidates will take to succeed.

After Seaman Kyle Mullen made his second attempt at the infamous Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S, training, he passed the training only to die hours later. For weeks he had been coughing up bloody mucus, and Mullen’s family told the NYT that all contestants are subject to extreme exhaustion and mental stress, with many eventually suffering from serious illnesses and physical injuries.

After Mullen’s death, according to newspaper reports, the Navy discovered performance-enhancing drugs among its possessions. A strange detail comes from Mullen’s mother: before he died, he was secretly taking Viagra to survive the harsh training environment.

The use of drugs that boost athletic ability makes sense in the grueling environment of Navy SEAL training. Viagra, however, the brand name of a drug called sildenafil which is usually prescribed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, seems at first glance much more unusual.

The NYT reports that other Navy SEAL candidates had convinced Mullen that the drug was an effective treatment for SIPE, the acronym that sailors gave to swimming-induced pulmonary edema. There are some proof that the sailors were onto something; several groups of researchers have found that sildenafil could be an effective treatment for the disease.

Of course, even if other research confirms these results, the treatment would be best administered by a doctor.

Using Viagra, however, Mullen was able to recover somewhat. But then the NYT reports that his SIPE came back strong during a brutal workout during which doctors provided him with oxygen on the spot.

When he finally died, a Navy autopsy revealed that his official cause of death was bacterial pneumonia. All takeaway meals NYThowever, is that he was pushed beyond his limits to a degree that almost guaranteed he would fall back on dangerous performance-enhancing drugs and off-label Viagra.

Now Mullen’s family is pushing for accountability.

Since 1953, the NYT reports that at least 11 sailor candidates have died during the SEAL’s brutal training. This includes Hell Week, the final round of a horrible marathon. The death toll and injury rates could theoretically be higher, as it is unknown how many sailors suffer life-changing injuries during the lore. And many sailors are encouraged to quit before seeking formal medical treatment, so the Navy manages to keep its tactics secret.

Mullen’s mother, Regina Mullen, is a registered nurse and told the NYT that she holds the Navy responsible for her son’s death.

“They killed him,” Regina Mullen told the newspaper. “They say it’s training, but it’s torture. And then they haven’t even given them proper medical care. They treat these guys worse than they’re allowed to treat prisoners of war.”

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