How NOT to Get a Gig With WWE’s Crack Medical Team

I haven’t yet told you about World Wrestling Entertainment’s consulting endocrinologist on matters related to “therapeutic use exemptions” (TUE’s) for drug-testing under the company Wellness Policy. He is Dr. Vijay Bahl, yet another distinguished physician from the Shadyside campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

This post is mostly about what you shouldn’t do if you want to get hired as a medical consultant for WWE. But one thing that it seems you should do is have a practice out of the Shadyside campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. So do Joseph Maroon and Bryan Donohue – respectively, WWE’s medical director and cardiovascular monitoring consultant, in addition to being fellow hucksters for a supplement marketer. (See previous posts today.)

The importance of the TUE consultant became clear after the June 2007 double murder/suicide of Chris Benoit. Initially, WWE said Benoit had passed his drug tests with flying colors. Funny, but his postmortem toxicology study showed that he had a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1: off the charts.

Well, it turned out that Benoit hadn’t exactly “passed” his drug tests. It was just that he didn’t have “conclusion-positives” because he had a TUE, a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. TUE’s were part of a “testosterone replacement program” for wrestlers like Benoit who needed therapeutic doses of testosterone after years or decades of steroid abuse had maimed the ability of their own endocrine systems to produce it in sufficient quantities.

Dr. Tracy Ray, a WWE consultant, was grilled about all this in his September 2007 interview by the staff of Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (See the transcript at http://oversight.house.gov/images/stories/documents/20081231140832.pdf.) Ray agreed that “there was shadiness in almost every case that I’ve reviewed.”

Ray himself is not an endocrinologist, but an associate of Dr. James Andrews’ sports medicine clinic in Alabama. Andrews has performed surgery to repair injuries sustained by many famous athletes and WWE performers. (And many of those injuries – especially things like torn pectorals and triceps – are new to the medical literature and caused by how steroids cause overloaded muscle groups to tax the tendons holding them together.)

WWE sought an endocrinologist. Above all, it needed to make it look as though it was doing something serious about TUE’s. The company reached out to perhaps the leading expert in the field: Dr. Richard Auchus of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Auchus had helped design the TUE protocols for the Olympic movement’s World Anti-Doping Agency.

Auchus wrote a memo proposing a plan for WWE. He wasn’t fooling around. If he were to get involved, Auchus said, the emphasis would have to be on getting the talent off steroids, not enabling the continued abuse of them. He said a testosterone replacement program should be analogous to giving heroin addicts methodone to help wean them off the drug.

In his own interview with the Waxman Committee staff in December 2007, Vince McMahon said a relationship with Auchus was under consideration.

But Auchus never heard back. The next year WWE quietly hired Dr. Bahl.

After all, you can’t go wrong with those Shadyside bloodlines.

Irv Muchnick

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