Henry Waxman fired one more anti-steroid salvo as outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, shifting his focus from baseball to professional wrestling, a sport with a long history of alleged steroid and drug abuse.
In Friday’s letter addressed to the director of the government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, Waxman (D-Calif.) requested that ONDCP chief John Walters “examine steroid use in professional wrestling and take appropriate steps to address this problem.”
The Oversight Committee began its own investigation into pro wrestling’s doping problem a year ago, interviewing sport officials and examining drug testing policies for World Wrestling Entertainment and its competitor, Total Nonstop Action.
In 2005, the Oversight Committee lambasted baseball during a congressional hearing, prompting MLB to enact stricter drug testing policies and more severe punishments for offenders. But Waxman suggested in his letter Friday that pro wrestling has a long way to go toward eradicating its doping culture, starting with the woefully inadequate drug testing programs in place.
“In the first year of WWE’s testing program, which began in March 2006, 40% of wrestlers tested positive for steroids and other drugs, even after being warned in advance that they were going to be tested,” wrote Waxman.
Waxman also detailed how wrestlers who test positive for performance enhancers receive light punishment and can often participate in wrestling events even after steroid violations. The committee investigation also uncovered how easily wrestlers can secure therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) – permission to take banned substances for medical reasons – so they can continue performing while using steroids. When Waxman’s staff interviewed Dr. Tracy Ray, a physician contracted by WWE, Ray claimed there was “shadiness in almost every (TUE) case that I’ve reviewed.”
“(Ray) stated that he does not examine wrestlers, discuss their medical conditions with their doctors, or conduct detailed reviews of their medical conditions before granting (TUEs),” wrote Waxman.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon comes off even less flattering in his interview. McMahon told the committee he is “not subject to the WWE substance abuse policy,” even though he still performs in WWE events.
“When asked whether steroids could cause impairment and risks to wrestlers and others in the ring, Mr. McMahon indicated that he had never considered the question,” Waxman wrote.
Waxman will become chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee this month. Walters could not be reached for comment. Calls left with WWE were not returned.