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Monday, July 09, 2007

AS I SEE IT 7/9: Would an Employee Assistance Program have saved the Benoits?

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Would an WWE Employee
Assistance Program have saved the lives of Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit?

It's not the first time that I've brought up this issue in AS I SEE IT. The
sad thing is the words below come from an AS I SEE IT column...on January
28, 2000. Obviously there is no more WCW and ECW as there was seven years
ago, but otherwise, the words ring as true as they did over seven years ago
and speak for themselves:

"It's time for WCW, the WWF, and ECW to make an effort to enact REAL drug
testing. NOW.

By that, I mean LEGITIMATE drug testing. I don't mean the farce that results
in stars being conveniently leaked times when testing will take place, but
REAL honest to God testing. I don't mean the farce that allows dirty tests
to be ignored if it will interfere with a major storyline and PPV main

It's time to start a policy of universal random testing within wrestling
companies for the use of somas and other muscle relaxers, for painkillers,
for cocaine, for Nu-Bain and other narcotics; as well as for steroids and
other growth-enhancing substances...testing for the drugs being used by
wrestlers today on an all too frequent basis.

Somas are one of the most widely used drug by wrestlers, used both to
relieve physical pain from ringwork, as well as for "recreational"

Firing or suspending someone so they won't 'die on my watch' (a phrase
uttered by Paul Heyman about Louie Spicolli, who wound up employed in
another major company shortly afterward, and died from a soma overdose
shortly after that) won't help one bit. It'll just cause a wrestler to deny
that he or she has a drug problem and more effort in concealing it than in
ENDING the drug problem; just to save their jobs. That policy will just
cause more wrestlers to die.

It is time for Time-Warner-Turner, WWF Entertainment, and ECW to enact an
Employee Assistance Program to allow for drug/alcohol counseling of workers
and office employees. Employee Assistance Programs are a common practice all
over corporate America. These programs involve making counseling services
available through a third-party who will not disclose the nature of the
counseling to the employer, but will provide services that may save a

Would an Employee Assistance Program have saved the lives of Chris Benoit,
Nancy Benoit, and Daniel Benoit?

We don't know. None was ever enacted, even though such a program might have
the demons that took over Chris Benoit stopped from exploding, resulted in
the murder of his wife and son and his own suicide.

To explain, Employee Assistance Programs are commonplace in many major
American companies.

Employee Assistance Programs are part of the medical benefits offered by
major companies. Typically included are (at minimum) a certain number of
sessions without additional costs (beyond any premiums already being paid by
the employee) providing assistance with issues relating to mental health,
alcohol or drug abuse assessment, family issues, child or elder care, grief
counseling and legal or financial services, career planning and retirement

An employer contracts with an outside third party company (there are many)
to manage its Employee Assistance Program. As per the Federal HIPPA law,
participation in an program managed by an outside party is confidential.
This arrangement, as opposed to a self-administered program (which does
allow limited access to information by employers) is the only model that
would work for professional wrestling; because few if any wrestlers would
participate in a program that gave a promoter a chance to pull their push,
or evidence to terminate their services.

Forget the fact that we're talking about companies with some form of medical
benefits...which doesn;t exist for national wrestling touring companies. TNA
claimed to have some sort of program, but won't tell anyone what it consists
of, so fans have to assume it doesn't exist unless or until provided proof.

So....no Employee Assistance Program. What did happen after 2000? We all
know what happened.

Wrestlers kept dying.

Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy: July 16, 2001 (blood clot in the heart); Rhonda
Singh: August 2, 2001 (drug overdose); "Gentleman" Chris Adams: October 7,
2001 (shot to death); Alex (Big Dick Dudley) Rizzo: May 16, 2002 (kidney
failure); Davey Boy Smith: May 18, 2002 (heart attack); Curt Hennig:
February 10, 2003 (acute cocaine intoxication); Michael (Road Warrior Hawk)
Hegstrand, October 19, 2003 (heart attack); Mike (Crash Holly) Lockwood,
November 6, 2003 (drug overdose/suicide); Jerry (Malice/The Wall) Tuite
(December 6, 2003 (heart attack); Chris Candido, April 28, 2005 (blood
clot); Eddie Guerrero, November 13, 2005 (heart attack due to years of
drug/steroid use); Michael (Johnny Grunge) Durham, February 16, 2006 (drug
use and obesity); Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow, January 19, 2007 (drug use); Mike
"Awesome" Alfonso, February 17, 2007 (suicide); Sherri (Martel) Russell;
June 15, 2007 (cause unknown); Nancy "Woman" Benoit, June 25, 2007
(strangulation murder), and son Daniel (suffocation murder); Chris Benoit,
June 25, 2007 (suicide).

Drug use continued after Eddie Guerrero's death. While WWE instituted a
"Wellness Program" and a few mid-level workers, like Nick Dinsmore and Chris
Masters, were made examples of and suspended, and the names that were
"suspended", like Randy Orton were told to work without pay; little truly

In two notable cases, Randy Orton and Chris masters were openly ridiculed on
air for having smaller builds after presumably getting off, however
temporarily; whatever growth-enhancing drugs they'd been using.

Needless to say, the true message went out: do what you have to do to have
the build we want, just don't get caught. Anyone who thinks wrestlers look
like WWE and TNA wrestlers look naturally is out of their minds....even now.
The use of growth-enhancing substance goes on...with some wrestlers who make
enough money moving on to more expensive and undetectable growth-enhancing
substances like HGH, so WWE and TNA can maintain plausible deniability
regarding anyone failing the steroid component of a drug test.

WWE clearly won't do anything about this problem.

Until State Athletic Commissions step in and mandate truly independent and
truly random testing, or the DEA starts making unannounced visits at live
shows, TV tapings, and PPV events; nothing's going to change.

Before I get the inevitable WWE trolls, TNA is no better. It's been
suggested that TNA will happily take any of WWE's drug failures and
behavioral problems, as long as they have a name. The most notable recent
example is Kurt Angle, whose participation in the internet pharmacy ring,
including the use of equine steroids; is well-documented by Sports

Until next time...

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If you have comments or questions, if you'd like to add the AS I SEE IT
column to your website or for advertising requests, I can be reached by
e-mail at bobmagee1@hotmail.com.

(As always...this column represents the view of this writer and not
necessarily of the website on which it appears).

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