Sunday 9 December 2018

Teen sportsman died because of steroid usage, coroner rules

The funeral of Luke O’Brien-May (inset) in Castletroy, Co Limerick, last year. Photo: Press 22
The funeral of Luke O’Brien-May (inset) in Castletroy, Co Limerick, last year. Photo: Press 22

Olivia Kelleher

A Coroner has warned of the dangers of steroid use after a sports-loving 18-year-old boy died from using a drug called Stanozolol that caused him to fall ill in the midst of his Leaving Certificate exams last year.

Luke O'Brien May, from Grange, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, was a skilled sportsman and played rugby, football, hurling and basketball.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn said Luke's death at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on June 18, 2017, was a tragedy. "He was a fine young man with all the world ahead of him," he said.

A medic at CUH, Dr Robert Plant, and Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster, indicated that, on the balance of probabilities, Luke developed a swelling of the brain because of his usage of the steroid Stanozolol.

The coroner said that he had a duty to warn the public of the "significant health risks" associated with taking steroids.

"Most of these steroids are obtained illegally. You do not know what you are getting. People need to be told of this. I hope people will become aware of the dangers of [these drugs] by Luke's passing."

Luke O'Brien May
Luke O'Brien May

Mr Comyn said he planned to send details of the inquest to the Health Products Regulatory Authority. He emphasised that anabolic steroids used by sportspeople were addictive.

The inquest heard that Luke, and his younger brother Ross, were doing their Leaving and Junior Certs at the same time and had received good luck cards from their grandmother.

Luke hoped to study law and accountancy at the University of Limerick.

His mother, Brid O'Brien May, said Luke became ill while completing his Leaving Cert.

Ms O'Brien May said that, at one point during the weekend, he perked up and played frisbee out the back with his dad.

Then he went downhill and he became disoriented and confused.

He was seen by a GP for a suspected vomiting bug and was hospitalised at University Hospital Limerick on June 13. He was subsequently transferred to CUH, where he died.

Their family GP, Dr Eamonn O'Callaghan, said Luke presented at the surgery on June 12 with headaches and vomiting. He was an otherwise healthy boy and had no history of illness.

Luke's father Denis said he found an empty packet with the name Stanozolol at home and handed it in to medics.

Dr Plant, who treated Luke at CUH, said anabolic steroids can cause myriad damages to the organs.

He said that when Luke deteriorated at the hospital, a CT scan revealed a "devastating" swelling of the brain. He said there was a "rapid and vicious spiral downwards" and warned of the dangers of ingesting such illicit drugs.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Bolster said the cause of death in the case was severe cerebral edema and brain stem due to the ingestion of Stanozolol. She stressed that the impact on the body from steroids was an "evolving story". Dr Bolster said the issue wasn't quantity but whether anabolic steroids "were present or absent".

Ms O'Brien May said she had "reservations" about the findings in the case, saying that there was a "huge leap of faith" about the cause of death.

At the closure of the inquest, the coroner commended the parents of the deceased for donating his organs following his death. Luke is survived by his parents and his two younger brothers, Paul and Ross.

Mr Comyn recorded a verdict of misadventure in the case.

Irish Independent

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