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   Fri, June 29, 2007


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COMMENT





Benoit a 'juice freak'
Bruce Hart says wrestler had trouble with reality
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media
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Bruce Hart, son of the legendary Stu Hart, says Chris Benoit could not separate his wrestling persona from reality. (Sun File/Darryl Dyck)




Steroids found at home
WWE: Sorrow, but show goes on

Chris Benoit was a "delusional juice freak" who chased the dark side and had trouble distinguishing between his fictional character and reality, says the man who started him out in professional wrestling.

"The last time I saw him he was in pretty rough shape mentally," said Bruce Hart, son of the legendary Stu Hart. "I didn't know all the details but I knew it wasn't good. I was not at all shocked (by what happened).

"If I could see and determine that in a few visits, how the hell could they (World Wrestling Entertainment) not have known something was wrong? (In my opinion) I think the WWE needs to re-evaluate what it is doing here."

Hart will not simplify the shocking murder of Benoit's wife and 7-year-old son or the eventual suicide of the wrestler by attributing it only to steroid usage. But he truly believes that steroid abuse, in combination with delusional behaviour, painkillers and failing health -- "almost all the people we started out with (who did steroids) began breaking down around 40," Hart said -- is a deadly cocktail that needs to be further examined.

"I've known too many wrestlers who couldn't separate the character they play on television from their real life," said Hart, who has wrestled professionally, promoted wrestling and trained wrestlers all his life.

"Wrestlers start believing their press clippings and what is said on television. It's like an actor leaving the set but still playing the part. There's a delusional element to this. I've seen it over and over again. Some people can't separate the character from real life, and Chris was one of those people.

"From my experience, that has been quite prevalent with wrestlers and that becomes exacerbated by steroids, drugs, painkillers and failing health."

They hadn't seen each other much over the past few years, with Hart still in Calgary and Benoit working the circuit. "We saw each other mostly at funerals," Hart said. "At my brother's (Owen), my dad's, my brother-in-law's (Davey Boy Smith). Not that long ago I was talking to Hillbilly Jim and we were reminiscing a little. I told him I was worried about Chris."

While the WWE has a drug-testing policy, Hart believes they should bring in psychologists and physicians to evaluate not only their drug-testing procedures but how they treat their athletes, deal with them, and the toll their gimmicks take on the lives of their performers.

"Imagine if Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mark Messier were all dead in their 40s. Imagine what the reaction would be?" Hart asked. "There would be investigations and more investigations. Wouldn't people want to know what happened and why?"

Hart was also deeply angered that the WWE aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit on Monday night.

"I kept hearing 'He was a nice guy, a great guy' and I knew him when he was a kid. But all I know now is he's a murderer," Hart said. In my opinion, "for them to do a tribute show was disgraceful."

Officials at WWE Canada refused to comment yesterday.

WWE owner Vince McMahon told NBC Today Show viewers yesterday that "steroids may or may not have had anything to do with this. It's all speculation until the toxicology reports come back."

Hart did wonder if Benoit had been given an unfavourable medical report, which may been another factor in his violent behaviour. "A lot of the steroid users start getting liver and kidney problems around the age of 40," Hart said. "There are a lot of wrestlers out there who are dead that you never heard about whose bodies broke down. I've known others who had looming health issues and went a little crazy. Maybe this caused him to go off."