Archive for January 18th, 2011

In Case We Didn’t Already Know: Congressman Waxman’s 2009 Call to the White House Drug Policy Office to Investigate WWE Was a Charade

Through spokeswoman Katherine Bush, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, issued the following statement to me:

ONDCP takes seriously the public health threat posed by steroid abuse, particularly given the powerful influence athletes have on young people, and is fully committed to promoting doping-free sports.

ONDCP is not, and has never been an investigative agency, and has no mandate or authorization to pursue a request which, it must be emphasized, was made of a former ONDCP Director, under a different Administration.  The investigation began, and remained, with the appropriate body, the Oversight Committee, the primary investigative committee in the House.

ONDCP works closely with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and urges all sport organizations to adopt policies that combat the use of performance enhancing drugs.  Compliance with the WADA Code represents a strong step toward combating doping, and ONDCP is fully committed to promoting doping-free sports.

In a January 3, 2009, letter to John Walters, Kerlikowske’s predecessor under President George W. Bush, Congressman Henry Waxman had turned over to ONDCP the file of the 2007 investigation of the pro wrestling industry conducted by the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which Waxman then chaired. The congressman requested “that your office examine the systemic deficiencies in the testing policies and practices of professional wrestling that the investigation has found.”

If ONDCP had no investigative jurisdiction in the wrestling matter, Waxman seemed not to have gotten the memo. Or is there a difference between “investigating” and “examining”?

The next year, during the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, Brian Lockhart of Hearst newspapers wrote a front-page story reviewing how “The White House and Congress dropped the ball in 2009 on an effort to investigate the use of steroids in professional wrestling — a lapse that represents a break” for McMahon. The statement ONDCP gave Lockhart at the time was slightly different than the one just given me; Kerlikowske didn’t say that his office had no investigative function, but merely that it was “not in position … to comment regarding communications that may have occurred prior to his confirmation as Director.”

Now Linda McMahon’s opponent, Richard Blumenthal, is settling into his new Senate seat, and WWE’s medical director, Dr. Joseph Maroon, also a National Football League team physician and concussion consultant, is at the center of a federal investigation of exaggerated safety claims by the NFL’s official helmet supplier, Riddell, based on NFL-funded research carried out by Maroon. And further information developed since Waxman’s January 2009 letter argues forcefully for renewing investigations of the pro wrestling industry and folding it into the larger issue of premature deaths of athletes throughout sports and sports entertainment.

Factors weighing against aggressive pursuit of this subject include the pressing national issue of economic recovery. In an op-ed piece today in The Wall Street Journal, President Obama suggests that the urgency of supporting job creation might require more attention than regulation.

Factors weighing in favor of aggressive pursuit of this subject include the fact that WWE centimillionaire Linda McMahon – she of the “self-funded” $50 million 2010 campaign – is in position to run again in 2012. Also that a ridiculous number of young people have died participating in the scripted entertainment that put her in position to seek political power at this level — and more are sure to follow.

Irv Muchnick



“Muchnick Flashback December 2007: WWE Dodges the Congressional Bullet,”

“Muchnick Flashback: ‘See Ya Later, Congress,” March 1, 2010,

“WWE steroid investigation: A controversy McMahon ‘doesn’t need,’” Brian Lockhart, Stamford Advocate, March 1, 2010,

Irv’s Tweets

January 2011