Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Wellness Policy’ (Part 1)

The wrestling  fan newsletter websites are passing along a local news report that a World Wrestling Entertainment star faces a court hearing for allegedly spitting gum in the face of a juvenile and swearing at him outside a restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts.

See “Wrestling star Randy Orton accused of assault outside Kowloon,” http://www.wickedlocal.com/saugus/news/x532576957/Wrestling-star-Randy-Orton-accused-of-assault-outside-Kowloon.

Orton has been involved in numerous such scrapes over the years. In that respect, he is not unlike many athletes and celebrities, though Orton — in addition to being one of WWE’s most valued performers — is definitely on the more undisciplined and unprofessional end of the continuum.

I’m choosing to introduce Orton to newcomers to this blog, especially the Connecticut politicos, because he may be the No. 1 poster child for the farce that is WWE’s so-called “Wellness Policy.”

In 2007, shortly after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, the list of Internet drug dealer Signature Pharmacy’s customers (as leaked by the district attorney in Albany, New York) included around 16 WWE performers. Among them were Benoit himself and Brian Adams, a former wrestler who would soon join the early death list via sudden explosions of enlarged hearts or overdoses of prescription drugs.

Another name on the Signature list was Randy Orton. But unlike the other dozen current WWE wrestlers, who were suspended under the “Wellness Policy,” Orton never suffered a consequence. Not even the best-connected Kremlinologists of the wrestling-fan-media community are sure exactly why. One theory is that it might have been “double jeopardy” to punish Orton for ordering drugs from an Internet pharmacy; he already had accrued a Wellness Policy “strike” for failing a drug test, and perhaps it was for the same banned substance later shown to have been obtained from Signature.

Another theory is that WWE flat-out enforces the policy in a way that places its own convenience and profits first — which is exactly what you should expect to happen when drug-testing is not operated by an independent authority, such as an athletic commission.

In the interviews of Linda and Vince McMahon and their Wellness Policy contractors by Congressional investigators in 2007, it was apparent that there were two distinctly separated parts to the process of testing “positive” and receiving a “strike.” One was the objective data of the test itself. The other part was whether it was a technical-positive or a “conclusion-positive.”

And guess who determined whether it was a conclusion-positive? Not David Black’s Nashville lab. Black is just, if you will, a test-tube-pusher.  He does his best. So does the doctor who makes recommendations for “conclusion-positives” based on a wrestler’s appeal of a therapeutic-use exemption. But the final call is by the McMahons.

When asked by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffers what he thought about Orton appearing on the Signature Pharmacy list and not getting suspended like everyone else, Black responded, “Oh, sure, I would agree that that’s not good.”

Irv Muchnick

NEXT: The Suicide Attempt (Part 2 of Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE “Wellness Policy”)

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