When Steroids Lead To Murder

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 04, 2007
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For decades professional wrestling has existed on the periphery of American sporting culture as a guilty pleasure that, although garnering big ratings, is looked upon with self-righteous scorn by even some in attendance.

This may have suddenly changed and this so-called “soap opera for men” might just wind up being responsible for finally instigating a comprehensive national steroid policy for athletics that will change the landscape of sports.

When Chris Benoit was found dead in his suburban Atlanta home along with his wife and 7-year-old son, it sent shock waves throughout the business, causing his employer to make the rare decision to cancel a show and instead play a three-hour tribute to the man formerly known as the Crippler and the Rabid Wolverine.

Everyone else took notice when it was discovered that Benoit was not a victim, but had killed his wife and child before taking his own life.

It’s going to be some time before toxicology tests reveal what was in his system, but what is known is that Benoit was a longtime steroid and drug user with a history of marriage problems that include a restraining order filed against him by his wife.

Police found steroids in his home and are investigating whether Signature Pharmacy and Web-based MedXLife may have sold Benoit steroids, testosterone and human growth hormone over the Internet. Investigators also have raided the office of Benoit’s personal physician, Dr. Phil Austin.

Wrestlers have been dying young for years from an admitted combination of drug and steroid use. Since 2000, wrestlers Bam Bam Bigelow, Eddy Guerrero, Road Warrior Hawk and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith have all died from heart problems prior to their 45th birthday.

Then, of course, there is the legendary Von Erich family that lost four sons in the 1990s; one

to a heart attack at the age of 25 (David) and the other three (Chris 21, Kerry 33, and Mike 23) to suicide.

The WWE has been quick to apply damage control, with chairman Vince McMahon saying on the Today show that the organization has a comprehensive drug-testing policy and that Benoit had passed his last test in April.

The response was to be expected. Any complicity by the WWE could mean some serious fallout with possible legal action being taken.

For decades wrestling has skated by without any licensing commission or governmental oversight, and if wrestlers had been content to kill themselves off with no collateral damage it may have stayed that way. But now that a woman and a 7-year-old mentally retarded child are dead, things are bound to change.

The powers that be in sports can no longer hide behind ignorance by consistently turning conversation toward performance questions while ignoring the health risks. We’ve known for some time that steroids can be deadly. It killed 16-year-olds J. Kyle Braid and Taylor Hooten, and are sure to take even more as steroids are here to stay.

Dr. Alan Titchenal, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, said that possible limitations with human growth hormones could keep steroids at the forefront.

“According to some of the research I’ve been reading there are questions about the effectiveness of human growth hormones,” he says. “In my opinion, steroids are clearly more effective.”

One of the problems with steroids is that its use can cause a cycle of damage that just feeds off itself and other drugs. Whether it’s to survive the grind of a 162-game baseball season or to protect themselves from

being slammed to the mat 20 times a day for 200-plus days, athletes have turned to steroids to build protective muscle.

But building too much muscle too quickly can cause ligaments and tendons to break, resulting in pain that can lead to the use of painkillers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, one of the side effects of steroid use is joint pain and an increased risk of ligament and tendon injuries.

It’s a vicious cycle. Steroids build muscle and cause the breakdown of body parts. In order to get healthy, it’s back to the gym and more steroid use, which again causes further medical problems.

And with all these broken bones, ligaments and torn muscles come pain relievers that when mixed with steroids can turn into a deadly combination. Davey Boy Smith’s brother, Bruce, said his famous sibling paid the price with steroid cocktails and human growth hormones.

Depending on what is found in the autopsy and investigation, the impact of the Benoit case will have far-reaching effects.

Benoit hid this son’s handicap from even close friends, and police believe he gave his son steroids because of his small size. Needle marks have been found on the child’s arms.

Benoit was obviously a deeply disturbed individual and it’s going to be argued for some time whether steroids played a part. But if it is even suggested

that its use can have murderous, not just suicidal consequences, no sport will be left untouched.

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