DRUGS and steroids may have impaired the judgment of former Bradford and Wakefield rugby league star Terry Newton when he hanged himself, an inquest heard today.
A coroner ruled she could not be certain the ex-Great Britain international was intent on suicide as she recorded an open verdict.
The hearing was told that traces of anabolic steroids, cocaine and amphetamine were found in his system following his death on September 26.
He was discovered by police in the loft of his home in Orrell, Wigan, after his wife Stacey had told a friend she was concerned for his safety.
He left notes around the house expressing a desire to end his life.
Newton, 31, had his contract terminated by Wakefield in February after being suspended for two years for a positive drug test for human growth hormone.
Toxicology reports showed he had taken the steroid nandrolone within the week of his death and traces of cocaine and amphetamine were in his urine, along with alcohol and anti-depressants.
None of the banned drugs were a direct factor in the cause of death but all could have lowered a person's mood, the inquest was told.
Human growth hormone cannot be tested for post-mortem samples so no test was undertaken.
In reaching her verdict, Wigan Coroner Jennifer Leeming said: "I cannot be sure beyond all reasonable doubt that at the time Mr Newton did that act that he had the capacity at the relevant time to form an appropriate intention to end his own life.
"In those circumstances the correct conclusion for me to record in law as to the underlying cause of death is an open conclusion.
"I am aware that Mr Newton had indicated that he had hoped to work with the Rugby Football League to warn other sportsmen of the dangers of drugs and in his death, it is the biggest warning to others.
"His loss is a tragedy to his family and to the community, particularly here in Wigan."
The father of two young girls played as a hooker for his hometown club Wigan, as well as Leeds and Bradford. Following his ban from the sport he became a pub licensee.
His wife, and close family members, attended the hearing at Bolton Coroner's Court but she was too upset to give evidence as her husband's personal details were confirmed by the investigating police officer in the case.
A post-mortem examination concluded hanging was the medical cause of death.
There were several recent cuts to both his wrists, measuring up to 4cm, but they were deemed relatively superficial.
Giving evidence, forensic toxicologist Julie Evans said long-term use of certain steroids could change the way the brain deals with moods, with common side-effects being paranoid jealousy, irritability, delusions and impaired judgment.
Similar problems could be encountered with regular use of cocaine, one of the drugs most commonly linked to attempted suicide and suicide, she said.
The inquest was told his family had noticed a change in Newton's behaviour as he started to use drugs other than steroids.
Ms Evans added that research had shown a high incidence of steroid users going on to abuse other drugs, especially opiates. Many switch to other drugs to try to cope with steroid withdrawal.
Ms Evans said: "We cannot say exactly what his state of mind was but there are a number of drugs on board that could affect the state of mind."
She agreed there was a doubt about his ability and capacity to form the intention to kill himself at the time.
The coroner said: "We have a picture where steroid abuse may well have led on to behavioural changes. We can say that is virtually certain.
"Subsequently they have rendered Mr Newton, on the balance of probabilities, unable to form an appropriate judgment as to the nature and quality of his actions."