Sgt. Bales Pleads Guilty, Admits Using Steroids

By McCarton Ackerman 06/06/13

The US soldier charged with killing 16 Afghan civilians says the drugs increased his anger.

Bales faces life in prison. Photo via

Staff Seargeant Robert Bales, the US soldier who killed 16 civilians last year in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to premeditated murder and other charges in a deal that will spare him the death penalty. A life sentence is almost inevitable in the case, but it remains unclear whether he will have the possibility of parole. Drug and alcohol-related offenses were among the charges against Bales, who admitted to taking illegal steroids to improve muscle tone and recovery time from missions. He says the steroids increased his "irritability and anger." A corporal testified during a hearing last fall that he drank whiskey with Bales and another soldier in the hours before the attacks. "As far as why [I did it], I've asked that question a million times since then. There is not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things that I did," he told the judge when pressed for an explanation. His lawyer, John Henry Browne, attempted to prove in trial last month that special operations troops at a small military outpost in Afghanistan "pumped" him with alcohol and steroid-like drugs in order to make parole a possibility in the sentencing. Browne argued that the Army made an egregious error in assigning Bales to a fourth combat tour despite visible evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury suffered during combat in Iraq. "[Bales was] a broken man," said Browne. "We broke him. He never should have been there." He also said last year that "steroid use is going to be an issue in this case, especially where Sgt. Bales got steroids and how he got steroids."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.