By Mike Mooneyham
July 28, 2007
The leaders of the congressional panel that conducted steroid hearings into Major League Baseball have asked World Wrestling Entertainment to provide records pertaining to its testing policies and practices, according to ESPN.com.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tom Davis, its ranking minority member, submitted a three-page letter asking WWE owner Vince McMahon to provide “a series of documents intended to give the committee and its investigation a detailed look at WWE’s drug-testing policy, including information about the results of performance-enhancing drug tests on pro wrestlers.”
ESPN The Magazine senior writer Shaun Assael reported on ESPN.com Friday that the records request is wide ranging, similar to what was asked of Major League Baseball, and seeks a list of drugs covered by the WWE’s policy, the entities responsible for testing and the administration of the program, the number of wrestlers tested each year and the number of positive results.
The move comes one month after pro wrestling star Chris Benoit allegedly strangled his wife and suffocated his 7-month-old son before hanging himself with a weight-machine pulley in his suburban Atlanta home. Police are still investigating whether “roid rage” played a role in the homidice-suicide, even though it is more likely that a combination of drugs led to the slayings. The New York Daily News reported earlier this month that Benoit also abused the drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, also known as the “date-rape drug.” Experts say GHB can lead to violent mood swings, especially when users are withdrawing from the drug.
Even before Benoit’s autopsy results were announced, WWE officials refuted any suggestion that “roid rage” had played a role in the deaths. The official toxicology report found that Benoit’s testosterone levels were 15 times higher than those allowed in Olympic drug tests.
“The tragic deaths of World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit and his family have raised questions about reports of widespread use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by professional wrestlers,” the congressmen wrote in their letter to McMahon.
“These allegations – which include firsthand reports of steroid use by prominent former wrestlers – have swirled around the WWE for over a decade. Investigations by journalists have described a culture of performance-enhancing drug use in professional wrestling, high fatality rates among young professional wrestlers, and an inability or unwillingness of WWE to address these problems.”
The letter from Waxman and Davis described WWE performers as “multimedia stars that have an influence on the behavior and attitudes of the nation’s youth.”
“WWE has a responsibility to do everything possible to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing drugs – or the perception of such use – by its wrestlers.”
The letter gives WWE until Aug. 24 to comply.
“The media has provided us with a copy of a letter from the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,” WWE officials said Friday. “We are reviewing this letter and will respond accordingly.”
Federal prosecutors charged McMahon with steroid distribution in 1994. A jury found him not guilty. The double murder-suicide in late June, however, has refocused attention on the issue of wrestler deaths and steroid use and the idea that perhaps the government should step in and begin to oversee the inner workings of the testing. WWE began a drug-testing program for steroids and pain-killing medications after the death of Benoit’s friend, Eddie Guerrero, in 2005. The 38-year-old Guerrero died from heart failure linked to drug use. The possibility that Benoit was using high levels of both and still passing tests has raised serious questions about the program’s effectiveness.
Earlier this month Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) asked for congressional hearings as early as this fall that would take a much closer look at whether drugs and steroids are being used in the professional wrestling industry. Stearns pointed to the industry’s high mortality rate as a reason to investigate.
Stearns, the ranking Republican member on the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee, was involved in the steroid investigations of Major League Baseball and other sports.
“There’s no regulation,” former pro wrestling star Marc Mero recently told the San Jose Mercury News.
Mero, who worked for both WWE and the now-defunct WCW during the ’90s, said drugs and steroids are common in the industry and believes wrestlers should affiliate with the Screen Actors Guild or another union.
“In baseball, these guys are just hitting more home runs,” he said. “We are dying.”