Steroids did not act alone
BY JIM VARSALLONE(the Miami Hearld)*****special to GREENSBOROSports.com*****
From steroids to media coverage to personal choice, I will explain thoroughly what others have only partially explained, revealed or ignored in various reports.
Part of the problem in follow-up stories on the steroid issue with Chris Benoit is the omission of other substances found in his body via the toxicology report, the empty beer bottles/cans found in the home and the diagnosed brain damage.
For some reason, the coverage centers solely on steroids.
I’ve read many articles dealing with the horrific Benoit situation. I’ve spoken with many people including his father briefly via conference call, doctors, other wrestlers (local and national), fans, media members, lawyers, law enforcement, city employees and more. I’ve written stories. I’ve read countless reports and watched numerous programs on the subject.
I’ve watched and listened for 30-plus years — with the past 25 asking, researching, speaking and writing.
This is my account.
â€¢ The start
Steroids, a muscle-enhancing drug, reared its ugly head publicly in the early 1980s. Athletes from the Olympics, the NFL, MLB and even pro wrestling dabbled with the substance, making them physically imposing, a larger than life character.
Pro football player Lyle Alzado and wrestling legend Superstar Billy Graham are two poster children, symbolizing the adverse effects of steroid use. One is dead and the other with major physical ailments.
They are not alone.
Each displayed a ”look” during their prime. Muscular, chiseled, very impressive, but was it really worth it?
Steroids did not act singularly within Alzado’s system, but his cause of death, a brain tumor. Alzado believed steroids played a role in his death.
Before he died, Alzado toured various media outlets, discussing his abuses and trying to prevent others from falling into the same trap.
Graham is alive, but his body is worse for wear. He lectures high school athletes on the dangers of steroids.
â€¢ The lure of it all
Ownership: any organization wants to put the best product on the field and entice the greatest amount of fans and money. Sports are business. So, if someone is helping make the league money, good money, the sport will shy away from some of the problems. Companies can implement policies against alcohol or drug type use and abuse, but it can not be monitored 24-7. Masking agents run rampant, so it is up to the individual.
Success: money and fame are the rewards for success at a high level. Why work 9-5 for $40,000 annually, when you can be making hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, and become a celebrity. People loved to be loved.
Family lifestyle: having a family mounts added pressure to maintain an income parallel with the quality of life prepared by the spouses for themselves and their children. Working on the road 200-300 days a year takes its toll on family life.
Competition: pressure is great to keep your spot on a team or a roster at a high level. Competition is heavy. There is always someone waiting, pushing to take your spot, since the spots are minimal. As age escalates, an extra boost can help maintain that better level so you can look your best and feel your best against younger opposition. The body can only take so much. They are people — not robots, not machines.
Fan base: fans want to cast them as heroes, role models. Everyone loves a winner. If fans continue to watch, to buy, to support, to praise them, then why should the business change; why should the athlete change.
Media: these make riveting stories, but what are the ramifications and any solutions from them. With every story, there is a reason for running it, showing it, hearing it. Is it informational? Is it reactional? Is it fair and balanced?
â€¢ Steroids, the media and pro wrestling
The media seems to portray steroids as the culprit for wrestlers’ deaths. Steroids are not acting alone.
Pain pills, anxiety medication, marijuana, cocaine, sleep medication, alcohol, concussions, mental health problems are just as much to blame as steroids, human growth hormones and other muscle or weight gain and weight loss products.
When Chris Benoit murdered his wife, his 7-year-old son and himself in June, the attention quickly turned to steroids.
Did we disseminate information regarding those other facets? Do we continue to tie steroids with the other elements in follow-up reports?
Recently, a brain scan report of Benoit revealed brain damage known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE, which occurs in people who have suffered multiple concussions, commonly manifests as dementia or declining mental ability and parkinsonism or tremors and lack of coordination. It can also cause unsteady gait, inappropriate behavior and speech problems.
The findings: downplayed by the media. Not discussed on Larry King Live or Nancy Grace or pumped throughout the mainstream media. It was not the flavor of the day, per se, as we quickly moved to the next filtration – Paris, Brittany, O.J.
Found in Benoit’s body via the toxicology reports were the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and pain-killer hydrocordone at normal levels and not toxic. Don’t forget the empty alcohol cans/bottles. A fruit cocktail of substances powered his system.
WWE Hall of Famer Sensational Sherri Martel died of an accidental overdose with multiple drugs in her system, according to recently released medical reports from homicide investigators in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Martel, 49, also died in June at her mother’s home near Birmingham, Ala. Initially, police confirmed Martel did not die of natural causes, but foul play was not suspected.
Toxicology reports revealed large amounts of oxycodone, a drug used in treatment of moderate to severe chronic pain. It is addictive and not steroids. She did not kill anyone else, only herself. Other wrestlers have died but did not take the life of others with them.
â€¢ Steroids, the only topic
Timing. Interest. Uses.
You don’t find the general public, per se, taking steroids. Athletes are associated with steroid intake. So, steroids are an easy target.
Pain pills, anxiety medication, marijuana, cocaine, sleep medication, alcohol, mental health problems are part of society, unfortunately.
If we start denouncing those and the people using them, then we become hypocrites. Don’t we?
I believe the pro wrestling deaths are linked to all of the above — not just steroids.
â€¢ Important to note
Roid rage, a term associated with steroid use, is a quick, violent outburst. It leads to a punch, a kick, an assault, but not murder. The Benoit murders/suicide occurred over a two to three day period.
With the rampant use of steroids in sports and the number of high-profile wrestlers who have died at an early age, no one — other than Benoit — has been linked to murder.
â€¢ Recap of the Benoit situation
Benoit not only took steroids but also sleep medications, pain type pills, weight gain products, alcohol. Who knows what else he placed in his body, legally or illegally.
Benoit’s wife wanted him to spend more time at home with their son, but during the weekend of the horrific actions, he was scheduled to win WWE’s ECW title at a pay-per-view which meant a bigger commitment to the company — physically, mentally and time wise.
Benoit had head trauma/brain damage stemming from concussions.
Benoit also depressed.
â€¢ What can be done
Masking agents continue to surface. Better and consistent drug testing.
Someone can be depressed or even bi-polar, but it can be difficult to discern. Benoit was very depressed, according to his dairy, over the death of good friend and fellow wrestler Eddy Guerrero who passed away in 2005 from acute heart failure, from years of alcohol and substance abuse.
Regular physicals check the inner workings of an athlete’s body along with the brain and skull. Mental health evaluations. Head trauma and mental health issues are not easily detected.
Unions help, but even with unions, other sports still experience problems.*****This was sent to us at GREENSBOROSports.com. It is a bit long but it contains very important material that is vital to investigation of the death of Chris Benoit.*****