Congressional investigation on steroids issues new report

United States Senator Henry Waxman filed a letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s director John P. Walters providing results of the Congressional Oversight Committee’s investigation into the steroid use within the professional wrestling industry. Waxman’s entire letter can be read (in .pdf form) at this link.

Waxman, who added that he was leaving the Committe to become the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, requested that the Office of National Drug Control Policy examine the widespread steroid abuse within the pro wrestling business and the industry’s policing methods by taking appropriate steps to address this serious problem.

Among the highlights of Waxman’s letter involving WWE and TNA includes:

– During the first year of WWE’s testing program in March 2006, 40% of wrestlers tested positive for steroids and other drugs – even after being warned in advance they would be getting tested.

– Six months after WWE announced its 2006 steroid testing policy, it “relaxed the policy to allow wrestlers suspended for steroid abuse to participate in selected televisted events and pay per views.”

– WWE hired four of five wrestlers who tested positive for steroids in “pre-contract” testing conducted in 2007 and 2008.

– WWE regularly approved “therapeutic use exemptions”, explicitly allowing the use of steroids as part of a “testosterone replacement acceptance program” for wrestlers who abused steroids in the past.

– The letter noted that WWE had a steroids testing program in the 1990s that was eliminated in 1996. “On October 25, 1996, the WWE’s Chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon, issued a memo explaining his decision. The memo stated: “the incidence of illegal and performance enhancing drugs is so slight that group testing is no longer cost effective or necessary.” A steroid testing program was reinstituted in March 2006 following the death of Eddie Guerrero and the first series of tests were considered “baseline tests.” Results for these tests showed that 75 out of 186 wrestlers (40%) tested positive for steroids or other drugs.

– Penalties were instituted by WWE between March 2006 and March 2008, with an additional 34 positive test results for steroid use. WWE’s report to the Committee also revealed that an additional 23 positive tests for other drugs came up including cocaine, ecstasy and methadone.

– In August 2006, WWE issued an amendment to the policy that WWE, at its discretion, schedule talent to work selected televised events without pay and pay per view events without pay during a 30 day suspension period. Dr. David Black, the program administrator for WWE’s steroid testing program, stated that amendment was adopted because “it was becoming difficult to deal with the talent who were being suspended.” Dr. Black also added he was “unaccustomed to programs that suspend and you’re not suspended.”

– Between November 2007 and March 2008, five individuals tested positive for steroids in pre-contract testing. WWE hired four of these individuals.

– When confronted by the Committee in December 2007 about his past steroid use, Vince McMahon refused to answer any questions. When McMahon was asked about steroid use being a health risk he answered, “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know. I don’t know if there are really any long-term effects of st??roid usage.”

– Test results from WWE’s top competitor, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, revealed that a large proportion of TNA wrestlers have also tested positive and that there are significant weaknesses in the TNA testing program.

– The Committee obtained additional documents relating to the steroid policies and testing practices of TNA Wrestling adding, “According to the documents, TNA conducted baseline steroid testing of its wrestlers starting in January 2008. The documents provided to the Committee indicate that, despite having advance warning of these tests, 15 of 60 wrestlers (25%) tested positive for steroids. An additional 11 wrestlers tested positive for other drugs.”

– In August of 2008, TNA issued a drug and alcohol abuse policy that included random testing, although it failed to explain the protocol for selecting wrestlers who will be tested or provide information about how samples will be collected.

– In regards to the death of Chris Benoit, “Mr. Benoit was tested four times for steroids prior to his death. He tested positive three times, but each time he received only a warning or no penalty at all. The Committee obtained no evidence that efforts were made to discourage his steroid abuse.” Autopsy results for Benoit revealed he had ten times the normal testosterone level in his system.

The conclusion of the letter reads as follows:

“The evidence obtained by the Oversight Committee indicates that illegal use of steroids and other drugs in professional wrestling is a serious problem that the wrestling organizations are not effectively addressing. One former wrestler who agreed to talk to Committee staff on condition of anonymity explained that, in the wrestling business, “steroids are like white socks and tape, they’re just part of your gear.”

Since the Committee began its investigation last year, both the WWE and the TNA have made efforts to improve their steroid testing programs. But these efforts suffer from a lack of independence and transparency. As a result of these weaknesses, the organizations appear unable to effectively prevent the use of steroids and other illegal drugs by professional wrestlers.”

Considering all of this information is now public knowledge, it is safe to say that it makes the professional wrestling industry look extremely bad and it will be interesting to see how the media reacts to these findings in the coming weeks. Anyone in the industry that was hoping this investigation would simply go away has now received an alarming wake up call.