What Congressional Investigators Asked Linda McMahon About John Cena, WWE’s No. 1 Star

The Ted Mann story in The Day yesterday, reviewing Linda McMahon’s December 13, 2007, interview by the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, then chaired by Henry Waxman, has an important offshoot: a hint that John Cena, the top star of World Wrestling Entertainment, might be taking prescribed testosterone under a WWE Wellness Policy “therapeutic use exemption.”

I start this analysis of Mann’s reporting by disagreeing with the journalistic decision there to slip this potential Cena bombshell between the lines. Personally, when I have something to say, I prefer to come right out and say it. I don’t know any more than Mann whether Cena is clean. I do know there is a very slim probability that Cena (who has been a bodybuilder as well as a pro wrestler) looks the way he looks without ever using anabolic steroids.

I further know that Cena, the face of WWE, has grown a nose longer than Pinocchio’s for the things he has said in media interviews pushing the company line about its Orwellian “wellness policy” subsequent to the June 2007 Chris Benoit murder-suicide.

All told, the public dialogue is hamstrung by neuroses with respect to the public health problem of drugs in sports, sports entertainment, and society at large. My own general response is a philosophy that “more is more.”

In that spirit, here is the whole record behind the Cena reference, beginning with the explosive complete passage itself in The Day:

As in the 1994 [federal] trial [of Vince McMahon and WWE’s predecessor company], [lawyer Jerry] McDevitt aggressively countered the would-be [Congressional staff] interrogators of the company [in 2007], frequently charging them with engaging [Linda] McMahon in a “memory test” over the results of drug tests on individual wrestlers, and the identities of the “two or three” wrestlers, like Benoit and John Cena, who investigators believed had been given exemptions by the WWE to take testosterone as part of a hormone replacement therapy sometimes linked to past steroid use.

In a conversation yesterday, Mann clarified that he was not asserting that Cena took testosterone or had been granted a “TUE.” The context is that the Congressional investigators had been told that Benoit had a TUE and they were pressing Linda McMahon on whether Cena had one, as well.

Was Cena’s name dropped by investigators after unearthing “probable cause” in earlier interviews – most notably with David Black, the WWE drug-testing administrator? Or was it just a “fishing expedition”? That is not entirely clear from the transcript below. And I’m sure that if I ask Brian Cohen, the Waxman committee’s senior investigator and policy advisor, he won’t help us out.

But don’t feel sorry for Cena. After Benoit went on his homicidal-suicidal spree, WWE put out the story that he had passed his drug tests; the truth was that Benoit had ridiculous levels of testosterone covered by a TUE. In July 2007 the toxicology report showed an off-the-charts testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1, but WWE’s misleading line – “spin” is far too kind – was that that Benoit came up “negative for anabolic steroids.”

Folks, testosterone is the clinical generic of an anabolic steroid. This was analogous to saying Benoit was loaded with hospital-supplied morphine, but no worries, morphine ain’t street heroin.

Cena pushed the same malarkey on Larry King Live. “[T]he media kind of jump to conclusions,” Cena told the reliably pliant King. “You can see that Dr. Kris Sperry [Georgia medical examiner] said that there were elevated levels of testosterone. Chris tested clean for all anabolic steroids. Granted, the testosterone levels were high. But Kris Sperry also went on to state that even with his elevated levels of testosterone, there is no link between high testosterone level and the behavior that happened in the Chris Benoit murder.”

Cena said Benoit “obviously” supplemented testosterone “between April,” the date of his last WWE drug test, “and the time of the tragedy.”

Asked why Benoit would take testosterone supplementation, Cena said, “I’m not a doctor, Larry, I don’t know…. I can’t give you an educated answer, so I don’t even want to theorize.”

(Here’s why: Benoit had abused steroids so long and so much that his endocrine system had stopped functioning, and he needed prescription testosterone to keep functioning as a man. Coincidentally, the dosage also allowed him, at age 40, to maintain the cartoon look required for his WWE character.)

OK, on to the full background for The Day’s reference to Cena yesterday vis-à-vis Linda McMahon’s Waxman committee staff interview. See the bottom of this post for the relevant language, pages 110 through 114 of the transcript.

The complete 162-page transcript can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/lindawaxman.pdf. For students of the McMahon Senate candidacy, this is required reading on the syllabus, along with such items on this blog as her involvement in obstructing the federal investigations of the company steroid doctor, and of her husband and the company itself; and her absurd disclosure form to the Connecticut legislature at the time of her nomination to the state board of education in January 2009, stating that she had no known controversies in her past.

Irv Muchnick

***************

[Brian Cohen] Q Were you aware of any other current or former WWE champions or top stars in WWE who have received therapeutic use exemptions, medical use exemptions for the use of testosterone?

[Linda McMahon] A Not as I sit here this moment. Like Benoit, you brought up and refreshed my memory —

Q Right.

A If you have others to bring up, I’m happy you know, it is a memory test. I can’t remember it all. I’d be happy to tell you what I know. I’m happy to share with you, I’m not trying to hold back information from you at all.

Q That’s fine. I guess I will just ask you to take a few seconds to refresh your memory and think about whether it has come to your attention that any of the champions or the top stars at WWE have received medical use exemptions?

A I can’t think of any right now.

Q Are you aware of whether John Cena has received a medical use exemption?

Mr. McDevitt. You know, stop. You’re now going into individual drug test results, I mean you are; I mean you have been.

Mr. Cohen. Jerry, I asked a very specific question before.

Mr. McDevitt. Well, I know.

Mr. Cohen. I asked it as general as possible.

Mr. McDevitt. But that’s still–

Mr. Cohen. I then asked a very specific question and was given a different answer to that question.

Mr. McDevitt. That’s not what you’re doing.

Mr. Cohen. I’m trying to find out some information here. Ms. McMahon has indicated that she perhaps needs her memory to be refreshed, and I’m trying to do that if need be.

Mr. McDevitt. Now, yeah. But you were asking without names before, and she could have answered that question without names before if she had a memory of it.

Mr. Cohen. Well, she didn’t answer the question that way. She told me she had no knowledge.

Mr. McDevitt. Well—

Mr. Cohen. And then I asked a name and she, in fact, had knowledge of that name.

Mr. McDevitt. So that’s what we’re going to now do, go through the names of the roster and ask of this person and that person. This is definitely different from the letter that we received from the committee.

Mr. Cohen. I will not go through every specific name.

Mr. McDevitt. That went to great lengths to say we will not be asking for the individual drug test results of people or to turn over their results, and now you’re asking her whether John Cena has a testosterone use exemption.

Now, it is not that I would necessarily mind you getting the answer to that, quite frankly, but it frankly is contrary to what you are operating under with this Commission’s rules. And it is a violation of the privacy of these people. And there is not a drug testing program in America that can be run if the results of that are subject to congressional investigation. It won’t happen, Brian. I’m being honest with you. People will not do drug testing programs if that’s the result, that they get hauled into places like this and asked to reveal the results of drug tests. You will do more harm to people who are trying to do drug testing than you can imagine if you are going to start that process, Brian.

[majority senior investigative counsel David Leviss]. We are trying to understand, without the names, the number of individuals who have received medical use exemptions. And perhaps if at a break Ms. McMahon needs to go over a list of names off the record to refresh her recollection, we’re happy to entertain that.

Mr. McDevitt. I’m sorry, I have to say I think that’s disingenuous. You have from Dr. Black documents that show you the number of people who got TUEs. You have had him in here, you have graphs of it, you know the answer to that question without identities. You got it right from Dr. Black. So that’s not what you are trying to do. You know the number of TUEs.

Now you’re trying to put names to them, and that’s what you are trying to do by questioning them. Dr. Black gave you that information. I know he gave you that information. We gave you that information. You have information on the number of TUEs. She’s told you this morning that there’s two people who have been sent to endocrinologists to evaluate TUEs. She told you that this morning without names.

[minority counsel Jennifer Safavian]. And I would agree. I don’t think on the record we should put names unless it is public information, because I don’t know what’s going to happen with this transcript so I don’t think we need the names.

Mr. Cohen. We’ll move on.

BY MR. COHEN:

Q Before we do, I would like to refresh your memory one more time if you can remember whether any — aside from  Mr. Benoit whether any top WWE stars, whether any WWE champions, whether you have been made aware of whether that talent has received a medical use exemption for

testosterone

Mr. McDevitt. If you have something to refresh her recollection, give it to her. I mean, to say “refresh your recollection,” it doesn’t give her anything to refresh her recollection

BY MR. COHEN:

Q I’m going to ask the question one more time. Do you have any recollection or knowledge of any top WWE stars or WWE champions, aside from Mr. Benoit, who received medical use exemptions?

A No, not specifically, I don’t.

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