WWE starts uphill drug battle
TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
Long before steroids and baseball were a popular combination in word association tests, the public pinned the steroid stigma primarily on pro wrestling.
It wasn't exactly an unfair assessment.
Beneath the glitz and glamour of sports entertainment, there has always been a deeply ingrained drug culture, particularly in the older generation of stars.
Grapplers would bulk up using steroids and growth hormones, then pop painkillers and somas to work through career-ending injuries.
But when Eddie Guerrero died from heart failure last November -- the latest in a long line of wrestlers to simply drop dead before the age of 40 -- WWE executives announced they would be taking the most proactive approach to substance abuse the wrestling industry has seen.
This week, the WWE's new 'talent wellness' policy was finally unveiled.
Vince McMahon called a mass meeting at the Raw and Smackdown TV taping Monday in Washington, D.C. Even wrestlers who weren't booked at the show were flown to the MCI Center for the backstage town hall.
The company issued a comprehensive list of banned substances, which includes performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, such as ecstasy.
Masking agents which could be used to cheat on drug tests are also on the banned list.
The company will be testing for abuse of prescription medication and painkillers and even some common pharmaceuticals, such as diuretics.
The policy begins with baseline testing -- an initial evaluation of all full-time talent, which will likely be held after Wrestlemania -- followed by regular random tests.
As it can take years for traces of substances to completely vanish from the body, wrestlers who come up positive on the first test won't be suspended. However, their levels must decrease in the future.
Failing to reduce levels will result in a 30-day unpaid suspension. Failing a second time is a 60-day suspension, with the possibility of forced rehab. A third offence will result in termination.
Former WWE star Lance Storm, who now runs a wrestling school in Calgary, feels the policy is a step in the right direction.
"It's far more stringent than anything I ever expected to see in wrestling," Storm told the Calgary Sun. "... But I question whether it will be enforced, especially if it starts hurting business."
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