July 30, 2007
The drugs in pro-wrestling story got a lot more interesting late last week. Congress of the United States, as part of their ongoing investigation into illegal use of steroids and other drugs in sports, has request WWE provide the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform with copies of their current and past drug testing policies, copies of all test results, and any other related documents and communications the company has had concerning drugs and or drug related deaths in the industry.
This is, to say the least, HUGE. The document I read was 7 pages and covers every possible drug or health related document or communication WWE has ever made. It also states WWE or WWF so they are intending to go back at least 7 years. From my understanding this is only a “request” and WWE doesn’t have to comply, but I would assume that if WWE did not cooperate pressure would be on to subpoena them and get these documents anyway. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know if they would be able to get a subpoena, but from a public relations stand point, I would think WWE is going to have to comply with the request, to avoid looking guilty of trying to cover something up.
With all the Heat put on WWE following the Benoit family deaths, and their insistence that their wellness policy is working, refusing to submit documents to back up those claims are going to look very suspicious. As much as I feel that the Benoit tragedy and drug use in pro-wrestling are, for the most part, unrelated this inquiry could really shake up the industry.
Regardless of the end result of this investigation, assuming that it does take place, this industry is likely going to be changed forever. No one’s closet is completely skeleton free, and with the cloud of secrecy the wrestling industry is used to being under, having outsiders looking into WWE’s closets is going to be a very hard pill for them to swallow. With a publicly traded company perception and public image is very important so any dirt or even perceived dirt that gets dug up could have a profound impact on stock prices, sponsorship deals, and or TV ratings.
I think one of the toughest questions WWE will be facing is why testing slackened off or outright disappeared between the introduction of strict testing following Vince McMahon’s indictment for steroid distribution in late 1993 (he was acquitted of ALL charges) and the introduction of WWE’s current Wellness program, which was introduced in 2006 after Eddie Guerrero’s death. There is almost a 10-year span between the two policies where I don’t believe WWE did any testing. There may have been some testing during that time but certainly nothing like what was done initially in 1993 or currently now in 2007, and I can tell you first hand I was never tested, or even heard of anyone getting tested during my 5+ years with the company.
It should be a very interesting next few months. I hope this inquiry ends up doing the industry and those who work in it more good than harm, but only time will tell. I think public scrutiny is the only way to decisively make a difference and clean up whatever drug problems exist in the industry. Cleaning up these problems may end up hurting the business in the short term, but if it saves lives or improves the health of the boys in the long term, it could end up a huge positive for the industry.
There is of course the possibility that like the past inquires into baseball; absolutely nothing productive will come out of this. When all is said and done, much like in baseball where Barry Bonds is still hitting those home runs, steroid enhanced physiques, may continue to dominate wrestling, and a lot of time and money will be spent accomplishing nothing.
Here’s hoping that is not the case and something productive happens,