Steroids and wrestling go hand in hand, but World Wrestling Entertainment does, in fact, test its performers for drugs.
In the wake of former champion Eddie Guerrero's sudden death at the age of 38, WWE launched a "talent wellness" program last year. WWE officials declined a Sun Media interview request to discuss the program, but a press release issued Feb. 27, 2006, said the company would regularly test for drugs and institute a cardiovascular monitoring program.
While the program is a sign the company is paying attention to the well-being of its grapplers, it is far from stringent, said Alex Marvez, a wrestling columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.
The ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in the average person is 1:1. Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, athletes are in violation starting at a rate of 4:1.
But WWE performers can pass with a rate of 10:1, more than double the WADA standard, said Marvez. Not only that, a positive test can be excused if he provides a prescription and a medically justified reason for taking the drug in question.
Although the program is run under a three-strikes policy, some wrestlers who have flunked tests in the past year have been allowed to keep their televised appearances so as not to mess with on-air storylines.
Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said having a drug testing program is a good first step, but how it's run determines its effectiveness.
"Having a program is one thing, making sure it is effective is another, and implementing it is one more thing," said Pound, noting he didn't know the specifics of the WWE program.
Chris Benoit passed a company drug test on April 10. Steroids and prescription drugs were found in his Georgia home after he murdered his wife and son before hanging himself last weekend.
To its credit, WWE's cardiovascular stress testing can spot early warning signs, said Marvez. And in the past year the company has stood by some wrestlers, such as Nick Dinsmore (who plays simpleton character Eugene), who had drug problems. "Who knows what would have happened to him if they hadn't stepped in (and forced him to get treatment)?" said Marvez.
This isn't the first time WWE has launched a drug testing program. After McMahon's indictment in the early 1990s on charges he supplied wrestlers with steroids (he was later acquitted) the company instituted a drug testing program.
It was mothballed a few years later because then-rival World Championship Wrestling did not have a similar program, said Marvez.
Chris Benoit tragedy news section
Chris Benoit biography and story archive