‘Dr. Feelgood’ Facing Charges
By Mike Mooneyham
Jan. 27, 2001
An Indianapolis physician whose license was suspended after he allegedly provided controlled substances to professional wrestlers is facing criminal charges.
Dr. Joel Hackett last week was charged with 48 counts of illegally prescribing prescription drugs. The charges include 24 counts of making false statements and prescriptions and 24 counts for controlled substance fraud and deceit.None of the prescriptions in the new charges appeared to involve wrestlers.
Hackett could permanently lose his license and face up to three years behind bars if convicted. He could also face a $10,000 fine for each of the 48 counts against him.
Hackett’s name was found on prescription drug bottles found at the side of Louie Spicolli when he was found dead in his home of a drug overdose in California in 1998. Brian Pillman, before his death in Minnesota in 1997, also had received prescription drugs from Hackett.
Hackett was banned from the WWF locker room immediately after Pillman’s death, and the company issued a warning to its wrestlers to stay away from him.
Hackett has been investigated for allegedly over-prescribing medication to his patients and prescribing medicine after surrendering his license. Authorities said Hackett also wrote prescriptions for several painkillers after surrendering his federal authorization to prescribe the drugs. Hackett gave up that power after another investigation showed he had illegally written prescriptions for at least 11 professional wrestlers. After the investigation of Hackett’s link to professional wrestlers began, his Indiana medical license was suspended temporarily by the state Medical Licensing Board.
At that time the WWF issued a statement supporting the decision by the medical board.
“Since 1995, the WWF has made every effort to keep Indianapolis doctor Joel Hackett out of its locker rooms, backstage areas and away from its performers. The WWF through 1996 and 1997 denied Hackett’s repeated requests for complimentary tickets to its events and access to its talent. Hackett was instructed to have no contact with WWF Superstars and talent was requested not to associate with Hackett.”
WWF officials wrote to the Indianapolis office of the DEA in February 1998 and requested an investigation into Hackett’s practices. The WWF offered the DEA its full assistance and cooperation.
“It is the WWF’s hope, after the Board’s investigation, that Hackett’s license is permanently revoked.”
Hackett also had his license suspended in 1997 when he was placed on indefinite probation for “lewd and immoral conduct” in connection with his treatment of a female patient in 1996. The board found he forced a kiss on her and later had sex with her on the floor of his office on two occasions. The board barred Hackett from examining female patients without an adult present or those patients agreeing in writing to be examined by him alone. Hackett violated those conditions, according to the attorney general’s office.
The Indianapolis Star reported that documents filed with the Medical licensing Board detail several specific allegations. It alleges Hackett: did not perform “adequate medical examinations” or diagnostic procedures before giving wrestlers controlled-substance prescriptions and refills; failed to document the medical necessity for prescribing the drugs to wrestlers; continued to prescribe controlled substances to one professional wrestler despite knowing “that the patient was illegally distributing the medication”; continued to prescribe the drugs to wrestlers he knew were addicted to the medicine; provided steroids, including testosterone, to at least three pro wrestlers without demonstrating medical need.
Hackett was known to many inside the wrestling community as “Dr. Feelgood,” a physician more than willing to accommodate the “medical needs” of his customers in exchange for the opportunity to hang out with “the boys.”
Melanie King said that Hackett provided her late husband, Brian Pillman, with unlimited supplies of drugs. The 35-year-old was found dead in a hotel room near Minneapolis in October 1997.
King said Hackett also supplied drugs to Jim Hellwig (The Ultimate Warrior), with whom she was romantically linked in 1990.
“He was like some star-struck guy who forgot all of his medical school for the wrestlers. I can’t imagine putting all your heart and soul into that school and blowing it because you want to be friends with some wrestlers. I don’t know what was gong through that man’s head. He would just call in five or six pain pill prescriptions for Brian a week.”
King said she had discussions with Hackett and told him that she thought her husband was becoming too dependent.
“He was in complete denial that he was doing anything wrong. He would say things like, ‘Well, other doctors don’t understand them like I do. They’re in so much pain on a nightly basis, and as a doctor, I have to do my duty to alleviate that pain. I can’t just let them sit there in pain.’ He just totally didn’t understand. Sure, the pain may be there, but this is a narcotic, a regulated drug. You’re not regulating it. You’re giving them too much. If they’re in that much pain, they need to eventually have surgery on something. They were getting doses that freakin’ cancer survivors probably get.”
But King said Hackett was too willing to satisfy her husband’s appetite for prescription pain killers. Police who investigated the death said they found at least eight different prescription medicines nearby.
“I can’t blame anybody but Brian for any addiction problems, but he enabled Brian to continue. But I’m not one of those grudge-holding people.”
King said Hackett attended Pillman’s funeral.
“I was polite. I’m sure he felt guilty, but I wasn’t going to take away his right to grieve for his friend. They were friends who talked about their kids and other things. I feel sorry for him more than anything.”
King wasn’t the only wrestler’s wife affected by Hackett.
Dana Hall, the wife of wrestler Scott Hall, said last week that Hackett routinely sent her husband “boxes of stuff.”
“I asked him, ‘Do you realize this man is an alcoholic, and he’s not supposed to be taking these things? Do you know that he’s washing these down with beer?’ He didn’t care. I told him not to send them again or I would report him to the medical association. He gave Scott whatever he asked for.”
Former University of South Carolina football star Del Wilkes, who performed as The Patriot, recalled the ease with which wrestlers could obtain drugs from Hackett.
“It was a joke about how easy it was to get Hackett to do anything,” Wilkes said Wednesday. “The joke was, as Brian (Pillman) said it, `I’ve got to get back to the hotel room, and call my doctor, because I just can’t Hack-ett anymore.’ I was even amazed at how many times you could use him. I would think to myself, `There’s no way he’s going to do this for me this time. But you’d call him and he’d do it. I hate that it happened to him, but he sort of did it to himself.”
Not long ago, Wilkes said, he received a letter from Hackett.
“It was copy of a notice he had gotten that they were going to foreclose on his house. The letter said, Thanks to you and the other guys, this is what’s happened to me.’ We called him a lot, but he could have said no. I flew him out to San Francisco one time and put him and his wife up, provided a rental car and everything. A lot of the guys did things like that. Certainly we used him, but he also used us.”