June 28, 2007
Column: Wrestling with steroids
By NEIL WAUGH -- Edmonton Sun
Whatever demons entered Edmonton wrestler Chris Benoit's mind last Saturday we will never know.
But his extreme act of violence - where he strangled his wife Nancy and seven-year-old son Daniel before taking his own life by hanging himself from a gym equipment cable - has turned peaceful 130 Green Meadow Lane in sleepy Fayetteville, Ga., into the focus of the world. At least for a day or two.
Maybe more so than Benoit ever did when he toiled for World Wrestling Entertainment.
But it now has Vince McMahon's Stamford, Ct.,-based empire on full damage control.
All the phoney tributes about Benoit have been scrubbed from the corporate website after the horror of his acts became known and allegations of steroids on the premises were made.
Reports by Georgia authorities that needle marks were found on Daniel's arms leading them to suspect Benoit was administering growth hormones to his own son have made the story even more bizarre and sickening.
A "message from the chairman" filed on the WWE site claimed "the facts of the horrific tragedy are now apparent." Not exactly, Vince.
Then McMahon talked about "the first step of the healing process."
The WWE tour to Rexall Place, Saskatoon, Regina and Calgary's Saddledome from July 14 to 17 has been postponed "out of respect to the Benoit family and the city of Edmonton."
There was also a "timeline" with the text messages Benoit sent on Saturday night to unidentified "co-workers."
One where he told WWE headquarters he and Nancy were "in hospital with their son."
And a spooky 3:53 a.m. one where he messaged "the dogs are in the enclosed pool area."
Then McMahon lashed out at what he called "sensational reporting and speculation".
He claimed that statements by the Georgia authorities "run contrary to media speculation that 'roid rage was a factor."
"The presence of a Bible by each (of Nancy and Daniel's bodies) is not an act of rage," McMahon insisted. He pointed out that Benoit had tested "negative" for steroids as late as April 10 under WWE's "talent wellness program."
There's a lot at stake here. Corporate records filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show that McMahon collects an annual salary of $850,000 US. His wife gets $500,000 US. He also owns 97 million shares. Yesterday the shares were trading over $15 US. On May 11 the company declared a 24 cents a share dividend. Do the math.
But more disturbing allegations have surfaced out of Albany, N.Y., where aggressive District Attorney P. David Soares is winding up an illegal steroids-selling sting run out of Orlando, Fla., called "Operation Which Doctor."
The Florida outfit MedXLife claimed to be an "anti-aging" operation.
But its website now says it's no longer re-filling prescriptions because of a "pharmacy situation out of our control."
A "situation" called P. David Soares and a New York grand jury.
But Albany media reports say FedEx records in the New York police investigation show a "Christopher Benoit" received packages from MedXLife on three occasions. Once allegedly at his former Georgia address.
Which brings us to Edmonton's struggling city council. The outfit charged by the provincial government to regulate prize fighting and professional wrestling through a delegated authority called the Combative Sports Commission.
A brand new city bylaw orders commission medical personnel to "examine a contestant prior to an event or immediately after a contest."
There's a $125 per fighter charge in the fee schedule for "drug testing."
And a $10,000 fine or a year in the slammer for anyone who "furnishes false information or misrepresents a fact."
So are WWE performers and other pro wrestlers being tested for steroids or growth-enhancing drugs?
Considering the high-profile deaths of Calgary's Davey Boy Smith and Benoit's travelling wrestling buddy Eddie Guerrero of heart failure because of suspected steroid abuse, the answer should be obvious. Except it isn't.
"No we don't," confessed commission executive director Orest Zmyndak. Although he does admit "we do have a committee to look at the concerns about it."
The commission's curious reasoning is that it's "very expensive."
"It's a bit of a dilemma, who do you pass on the charges to," Zmyndak sighed.
How about the guy who just got a huge dividend cheque?
While the Edmonton commission collects up to $15,000 in fees from WWE events for basically doing nothing.
"If you demand too much from them they're not going to come here." Zmyndak said. "We don't want to deprive the people of Edmonton of a show."
It looks like city council has a serious drug problem.