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Steroids case linked to Benoit
Wrestler had drugs delivered


Wrestler Chris Benoit, of Edmonton, holds his heavyweight championship belt April 15, 2004. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)





Steroids found at crime scene

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. (AP-CP) — Canadian pro wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife, suffocated his seven-year-old son and placed a Bible next to their bodies before hanging himself with a weight-machine pulley, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators found anabolic steroids in the house and want to know whether the muscle man nicknamed “The Canadian Crippler” was unhinged by the bodybuilding drugs, which can cause paranoia, depression and explosive outbursts known as “roid rage.”

Authorities offered no motive for the killings, which were spread out over a weekend, and would not discuss Benoit’s state of mind. No suicide note was found.

“In a community like this it’s bizarre to have a murder-suicide, especially involving the death of a seven-year-old,” District Attorney Scott Ballard said. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to wrap our minds around this.”

The Montreal-born Benoit was one of the stars of America’s WWE wrestling circuit and was known for his wholesome family-man image. His wife, Nancy, was a wrestling stage manager who worked under the name “Woman.” They married in 2000.

When he won the world heavyweight championship in 2004, Benoit hoisted the belt over his head and invited his wife and child into the ring to celebrate. Asked by the Calgary Sun that same year to name his worst vice: Benoit replied: “Quality time with my family is a big vice. It’s something I’ll fight for and crave.”

Nevertheless, Nancy Benoit filed for a divorce in 2003, saying the couple’s three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and alleging “cruel treatment.” She later dropped the complaint, as well as a request for a restraining order in which she charged that the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Benoit had threatened her and had broken furniture in their home.

In the divorce filing, she said Benoit made more than US$500,000 a year as a professional wrestler and asked for permanent custody of Daniel and child support. In his response, Benoit sought joint custody.

The bodies were found Monday afternoon in the house, situated off a gravel road in this suburb about 30 kilometres south of Atlanta.

Benoit’s 43-year-old wife was killed Friday in an upstairs family room, her feet and wrists were bound and there was blood under her head, indicating a possible struggle, Ballard said. Daniel was killed shortly afterwards and the body found in his bed, the district attorney said.

Benoit, 40, apparently hanged himself at least several hours and as long as a day later, Ballard said. His body was found in a downstairs weight room, hanging from the pulley of a piece of exercise equipment.

A closed Bible was placed next to the bodies of the wife and son, authorities said.

The prosecutor said he found it “bizarre” that the WWE wrestling star spread out the killings over a weekend and appeared to remain in the house for up to a day with the bodies.

Ballard said Benoit had sent two text messages to acquaintances, one saying his wife and son were sick. The other, to a neighbour, said the door to the house was open and the pets were outside. The prosecutor said the messages appeared to be an attempt to bring someone to the home to find the bodies after his suicide.

The boy had old needle marks in his arms, Ballard said. He said he had been told the parents considered him undersized and had given him growth hormones.

“The boy was very small, even dwarfed,” Ballard said.

Toxicology test results may not be available for weeks or even months, Ballard said. As for whether steroids played a role in the crime, he said: “We don’t know yet. That’s one of the things we’ll be looking at.”

Benoit received drug deliveries from a Florida business that sold steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone on the Internet, said the Albany County, N.Y., District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the business, MedXLife.com.

Six people, including two of the pharmacy’s owners, have pleaded guilty in the Albany investigation and 20 more have been arrested, including doctors and pharmacists.

Steroids have been linked to the deaths of several professional wrestlers in recent years. Eddie Guerrero, one of Benoit’s best friends, died in 2005 from heart failure linked to long-term steroid use.

The father of Curt (Mr. Perfect) Hennig blamed steroids and painkillers for Hennig’s drug overdose death in 2003. Davey Boy Smith, the “British Bulldog,” died in 2002 from heart failure that a coroner said was probably caused by steroids.

The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., issued a statement Tuesday evening saying steroids “were not and could not be related to the cause of death.”

“The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage,” the company said, adding Benoit tested negative April 10, the last time he was tested for drugs.

Benoit was a quiet, roughhewn figure amid the glitz and bluster of pro wrestling. He performed under his real name, eschewed scripted personas and did not bother to fix a gap where he had lost one of his front teeth. (According to the WWE website, he lost the tooth while roughhousing with his pet Rottweiler.)

His signature move was the “Crippler Crossface,” in which he would lock his hands around an opponent’s face and stretch his neck.

He met his wife in the 1990s when she was married to rival wrestler Kevin Sullivan. As part of the scripted rivalry, Benoit and Nancy were supposed to act as if they were having an affair. A real romance blossomed, and she left Sullivan for Benoit.

Jimmy Baswell, who was Benoit’s driver for more than five years, placed a white wreath at the Benoits’ gate. “They always seemed like they were the happiest people,” he said.

World Wrestling Entertainment said on its website that it asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who had received “several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning.”

“He was like a family member to me, and everyone in my family is taking it real hard,” said fellow Canadian Bret Hart, a five-time champion.

The WWE cancelled its live “Monday Night RAW” card in Corpus Christi, Texas, after the bodies were discovered.

It also postponed its Canadian tour, which included shows in Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton, scheduled for July 14-17. New dates will be announced later on its website, the WWE said in a statement Wednesday.

WWE Canada president Carl DeMarco was among mourners offering condolences to Chris Benoit’s surviving family at their home near Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton, a source close to the family told the Edmonton Sun.

DeMarco flew out from Toronto late Monday and visited the family Tuesday.

Chris Benoit’s father, Michael Benoit, was stoic when reached by phone, vowing the family would cope.

“We’ll be fine...We’ll make it.”

———

The WWE cancelled its live "Raw" wrestling card Monday night in Corpus Christi, Texas. Canadian television network The Score aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled telecast.

The tribute began with WWE chairman Vince McMahon standing in the middle of an empty ring, eyes welling up with tears and voice cracking as he broke the news of Benoit's death.

"We at the WWE can only offer our condolences to the extended family of Chris Benoit," said McMahon. "The only other thing we can do at this moment is pay tribute to Chris Benoit."

Benoit was born in Montreal and also lived in Edmonton. He began his career in 1985 after training with Stu Hart and family in Calgary. He competed for Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion.

Bret Hart said the Benoit that fans saw on television was the same one he knew outside the ring.

"He was the same guy we all knew, that's why this is so hard to decipher at this point," said Hart, before it was confirmed the tragedy was being investigated as a double murder-suicide.

"Some guys are loose cannons, and you can expect something like this happening but not with Chris Benoit.

"He was a very sound, solid guy."

Vicki O'Neill, who taught Benoit in school in Edmonton and considered him a friend, remembered him as a very "kind and supportive student.

"He was well liked at school. He treated people with respect," she said. "Chris was a very kind student. He was hard-working, committed to his vision."

Benoit later wrestled in Japan and for the NWA/WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling. He joined WWE in 2000.

"I am deeply saddened over the loss of Chris Benoit," WWE Canada president Carl DeMarco said on the WWE website. "My heartfelt thoughts and sympathy go out to his parents and family. My relationship with Chris has extended many years and I consider him a great friend. Chris was always first-class -- warm, friendly, caring and professional ... one of the best in our business."

Benoit maintained a home in the Atlanta area from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling. He was scheduled to wrestle at the Vengeance pay-per-view Sunday night in Houston, but was replaced at the last minute because of what WWE called a "family emergency."

LOOKING BACK
Career highlights of former Edmontonian "The Crippler" Chris Benoit:
- At age 13, decides to become a wrestler after watching idol, The Dynamite Kid, in action at the Edmonton Garden for Stu Hart's Stampede promotion.
- Attends Edmonton's St. Edmund's elementary-junior high school from 1979 to 1981.
- Competes for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling organization from 1985 to 1989, holding both the British Commonwealth Title and the International Tag Team Title four times each.
- Burst onto the wrestling scene in the U.S. in 1994, where he becomes known at the "Canadian Crippler."
- Becomes member of the Four Horsemen, joining Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman, in 1995.
- Wins Intercontinental Championship in 2000.
- Misses more than a year of action recovering from a broken neck before returning to the ring in the summer of 2002.
- Claims title of World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion 2004.
- Defeats Elijah Burke in his final WWE match in June, 2007.
Benoit, a five-foot-11, 220-pounder, was often described as a rabid wolverine in the ring. "The Canadian Crippler" had a chiselled physique and was known for his superior technical skills. The "Crippler Crossface" was one of his signature moves, along with a flying headbutt from the top rope and triple German suplex.

Fellow wrestlers admired Benoit's hard-nosed attitude.

"Chris was the type of guy you'd want to go to war with," said WWE champion John Cena. "He was a good man, he truly lived for the business. He did everything for it."

Benoit held several titles over his career but realized his dream at Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, defeating Shawn Michaels and champion Triple H in a triple threat match at Madison Square Garden to win the WWE world heavyweight championship for the first time.

"Chris Benoit was not only one of the greatest wrestlers I ever saw, he was one of the best friends I ever had in this business," WWE announcer Jim Ross said during Monday's tribute. "Many of us had the privilege and honour of celebrating Chris's greatest moments."

Orangeville, Ont., wrestler Adam Copeland, better known as Edge, said he enjoyed matches with Benoit the most.

"Anytime we got in there, it was like two Canadians fighting for the last beer," said Edge, who broke down several times during his videotaped message.

"I love that guy. I'm gonna miss him."

RELATED LINKS

  • Chris Benoit biography and story archive