Tampa Bay is hosting the Special Operation Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) this week and the floor of the marketplace is an impressive place to see. Some of the best manufacturers of weapons and equipment are there with their latest wares and it is a maze of cool gear for the cool guys and a ton of other must-have items.  Walking around the market place I was searching for a pitchman that looked like Ivan Drago.

In an interview with Defense News, Ben Chitty, Senior Project Manager for Biomedical, Human Performance and Canine Portfolios in the Science and Technology office at USSOCOM said that the command is looking for ways to increase Special Operations troops performance with diet, nutritional supplements and even performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

“If there are … different ways of training, different ways of acquiring performance that are non-material, that’s preferred but in a lot of cases we’ve exhausted those areas,” said Chitty.

SOCOM is looking for ways to enhance performance for troops who’ll be operating in extremes. Those at high altitude or under the water for extended periods of time with no food.

It is a very understandable approach, who wouldn’t want SOF troops that can run faster, and longer distances, carry heavier loads on their backs and perform at peak performance at all times? However, it opens a kind of Pandora’s box. When the command is talking about having nutritionists and athletic trainers on hand akin to what the NFL that is great. But what SOCOM needs to remember is the problems the NFL had/has with performance enhancing drugs.

While those will boost the performance of an athlete/operator today, we’ve seen what the effects are long-term on NFL players. And then, where does it stop?

Chitty’s comments about pushing operators thru pain tolerance, injury recovery and peak performance are fine but there is a fine line that will invariably be crossed. “For performance enhancing drugs, we’ll have to look at the makeup and safety in consultation with our surgeon and the medical folks before making any decisions on it,” he said.

“If there are things in the nutraceutical realm that are available, those are good in the sense that it’s not a new drug that’s being developed. If the best thing for our folks is a pharmaceutical then we’re interested in understanding what’s the space that industry and academia can provide for us.”