Oscar Pistorius’ Possible Defense: Was it ‘Roid Rage’?

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Herman Verwey / City Press / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius in court during his bail application in the Pretoria Magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa on Feb. 19, 2013.

Reports emerge that steroids may have been found at Pistorius’ home the night he shot and killed his girlfriend.

Police sources told the South Africa Times that drugs and syringes were found in a drawer in Pistorius’ bedroom. Pistorius admitted to fatally shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day but claimed  he mistook her for an intruder. He was immediately taken for blood and urine tests after his arrest on Feb. 14. The paper reports that the Olympian’s lawyers may be considering a “roid rage” defense, arguing that Pistorius was under the influence of  steroids, which can cause paranoia, jealousy, aggression and irritability, when he shot Steenkamp. Although Steven Tuson, a professor of criminal law at Johannesburg’s Wits University told Reuters that a “roid rage” defense is unlikely to succeed, there is some evidence that synthetic versions of naturally-occurring steroids could trigger unusually aggressive behavior.

(PHOTOSOscar Pistorius On and Off the Track)

Human studies exploring this connection, however, are limited. In a 2008 study, Kevin Beaver, an associate professor at The Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and his colleagues analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health involving 20,000 participants and found that steroid users were approximately twice as likely to engage in violent behavior, such as getting into physical fights.

Another study from researchers at Northeastern University revealed that hamsters using steroids behaved more aggressively, and had significantly lower levels of the “feel good” receptor, serotonin, in areas of the brain related to aggression and violence.

Still, the extent to which steroid abuse contributes to violence remains unknown. There are not enough human studies to determine how much of an influence steroids play in triggering aggressive responses vs. other circumstances or factors that steroid-takers might share in common, and who might be most vulnerable to the effects of the drugs. “I think part of the reason for a lot of debate coming out is that we simply don’t know the [biological] mechanisms. If we did, there would be a lot more consensus,” says Beaver.

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But there are intriguing connections between changes in hormone and brain chemical levels and an increased tendency toward violent behaviors. In a recent study, Neil MacLusky, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that high levels of testosterone in mice, for example, suppresses the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that is involved in depression and inappropriate reactions to stimuli in humans. The results suggest that increased testosterone, which belongs to a family of steroid hormones called androgens, can alter mood, in some cases perhaps even promoting more aggressive tendencies. “These are hypothesizes of course and absolutely not proven for people,”says MacLusky. “Just as people vary a great deal in the extent to which they are predisposed to depression, this may be why people vary a great deal in their response to androgens.”

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MacLusky argues that reactions to androgens may differ from person to person. “It may be in some cases, that treatment with high-dose androgens, like the things athletes have been doing, may increase aggression in some cases, but it is clearly not true for everybody,” he says. “There is some indication from both animal and human studies that it may be the particular type of androgen used. Or there may be different effects depending on what particular treatment a person is using, but it may also just be differences between people. Some people are more susceptible than others. It’s a complicated situation.”

Even if Pistorius’ legal team considers a “roid rage” defense, the gap in human studies means it won’t be easy to make their case.

31 comments
BradSoverty
BradSoverty

Hello there! This blog post couldn't be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

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andrea1937n
andrea1937n

The "steroids" found is a herbal remedy and not an illegal substance, get your facts straight.

Grover_Sage
Grover_Sage

Let's execute this piece of shit and move on............

mahipal7638
mahipal7638

Let's see, the Oscars are on the 24th. As my pretend asian friend ponders, what if PistoLius only had an NRA knife? How many stabs would've sufficed?

AnonyMous1234
AnonyMous1234

More like groid rage. When you live in a neighborhood full of black people, you hold your gun extra close.

HeidiMorgan
HeidiMorgan

For some reason, I can forgive him, if he was on drugs. Except that when he wasn't 'taken' for that face disfiguring boat accident or given a BLOOD TEST for ANYTHING, because driving UNDER the Influence can ALSO include DRUGS!! And THE gun thing. GUNS are a REAL issue here. Have a Gun Will Shoot!

DailyComments
DailyComments

Anyone who would shoot someone to death-through a door-without knowing who or what they are shooting at, should go to prison for plain stupidity-whether they hit anyone or not. In this case he killed someone. No matter what the reason, she is dead and he did it, without verifying what he was shooting at. He's fortunate that I am not the judge.

AndyLord
AndyLord

The jury would have to include Oscar's mother and 11 of her clones to accept the utterly inexplicable series of decisions he claims to have made that led to the "accidental" shooting of a "burglar" in a locked bathroom. He thought his girlfriend was asleep in bed, so he was going to wake her up with pistol shots into a closed bathroom door? Or did he whisper, "Honey, I think there's a burglar in the bathroom, don't say a word, I'm gonna blast them."? He hears a noise behind a closed bathroom door and doesn't assume it's the only other person in the house? Not one person in 50 million would think anything but that his sleepmate was in the john. His story is absurd. As for the steroid excuse, that too would require a jury of 12 Oscar Moms to work. For one thing, it means his original story of a burglar was a complete lie; for another, unless he had a prescription, self-induced drug rage is not a defense. There are literally tens of thousands of drunks and meth freaks doing long prison sentences for crimes committed under the influence. Oscar's going down for a long time.

keysersozae
keysersozae

Cerebral Smartie: Take off your tinfoil hat. "Roid Rage" is nonsense and has been refuted in human studies; it just periodically appears in the media as a legal excuse.

Instead of googling nonsense terms, maybe you should read a scientific article, such as this paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the top medical journals in the world.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101#t=articleTop

twbbud
twbbud

This story has so many levels, but right now, it doesn't look good for Mr. Pistorius.   What he is saying happened doesn't seem to jibe with the evidence as we've been told by the media (which of course could all be horse manure).

Bottom line is that a young woman is dead at his hands, with his gun, in his house.  The only thing left to be proven is motive.  That shouldn't be hard, there's always a trail of electronic evidence left behind, texts, emails, phone records will paint the picture.

MikeMuniz
MikeMuniz

Really?   - It still doesn't excuse the taking of another life -period.  

Moby220
Moby220

So Oscar is in bed with his girl friend ..hears a noise ... get's  up without looking at the other side of the bed ????  How thoughtful of him ..he was obviously as afraid for Reeva's  safety as for his ...:-))   BUT   Reeva had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night ..in the dark .. and locks the door ?? ..  Doesn't sound suspicious ..does it..  wonder what made her so afraid she needed to lock that door ..  Then Oscar .. with gun in hand ...  is too afraid to call out to whom ever is in the bathroom ??  How brave of him..  IMHO this stinks of a fight ending in shooting..