Senate Candidate Linda McMahon and WWE’s Steroid ‘Therapeutic Use Exemptions’

Retired wrestler Bret Hart returns to Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment on Monday night as the guest host of the WWE flagship cable show, Raw. Hart, who went inactive after suffering a serious concussion while with WWE’s then rival, World Championship Wrestling – and later was partially paralyzed by a stroke that likely had something to do with his career-long brain trauma from chair shots and the like – shouldn’t be too heartened by this blog’s recent information about WWE medical director Dr. Joseph Maroon.

I have reported exclusively that Dr. Maroon had been, arguably, one of the National Football League’s chief enablers as the NFL dragged its feet on the seriousness of concussion-syndrome research pioneered by Dr. Bennet Omalu.

I have also reported that Maroon sat by silently while WWE artfully withheld from ESPN.com the information that Omalu and his colleague at a West Virginia brain research institute, Dr. Julian Bailes, met with Maroon in 2008 and gave him full access to the studies of the brain of wrestler Chris Benoit, who committed double murder/suicide in 2007.

If Maroon would like to illuminate all of us further on this subject, he knows how to reach your humble blogger.

Meanwhile, let’s move on to a new topic: the “therapeutic use exemptions,” or TUE’s, under the WWE “wellness policy.” After Benoit went on his rampage in 2007, WWE asserted that he had passed his drug tests. Benoit’s post-mortem toxicology report, however, showed an astronomical 59-to-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and the drug-testing administrator, David Black, later admitted that Benoit enjoyed what was, in effect, a get-out-of-jail-free card – something known throughout sports and sports entertainment as a TUE.

(Lest anyone thinks I’m trying to single out WWE, know this: In Major League Baseball, TUE’s rose from 35 in 2005 to 111 in 2006. Aging pitcher Paul Byrd is just one of the players who has helped extend his career with this scam.)

After the Benoit tragedy, WWE was under scrutiny by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In his December 2007 interview with Congressional investigators, Vince McMahon, the chairman of WWE (and former CEO Linda McMahon’s husband), said he was “considering” and “contemplating” the tightening up of TUE’s under the wellness policy, and had approached for that purpose Dr. Richard Auchus, who has worked with the World Anti-Doping Agency on developing standards.

During the research for my book CHRIS & NANCY, Auchus told me that he told WWE that he was only interested in getting involved if the program included a strong component by weaning talent off testosterone prescriptions. Auchus analogized his recommendations to how methadone is used as a bridge for heroin addicts. He said he sent WWE a two-page memo and never heard back, except for the payment of the invoice for his time.

In October 2008 WWE hired a different endocrinologist to work with it on TUE’s: Dr. Vijah Bahl of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Here’s what the WWE corporate website’s wellness policy summary says: WWE offers all WWE talent the opportunity for referral to qualified health care professionals who can help them with issues that may arise from time to time. Under the supervision of Dr. Maroon, WWE has established relationships with renowned specialists in psychiatry, orthopedics and endocrinology.”

With all this in mind, here are a few more questions for Linda McMahon out on the Senate campaign trail:

1. Will you ask WWE to release publicly both Dr. Auchus’s and Dr. Bahl’s memos with recommendations on reform of the TUE piece of the wellness policy?

2. Will you explain your own role in the formulation and evolution of TUE policy up to the time of your resignation from the company in September of this year?

3. How will this experience impact your work in public office, should wellness policy issues come before Congress again?

Irv Muchnick

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