AS I SEE IT - 2/04/2000
by: Bob Magee
This week, a welcome to FWLNet-IWO Online, WrestleFire, The Dave's
Wrestling Site, The RockSays.com, and Wrestling's Best, which join the now 48 websites
that run AS I SEE IT.
Last week, I wrote about the death of Bobby Duncum, Jr., and the failure of the wrestling industry to deal with the problem of drug use in any substantive way.
The Wrestling Observer this past week provided more information on Duncum's problems. Duncum had apparently had been known as having problems with the use of somas while in ECW and WCW. Duncum was said to have used them to hide a shoulder injury from Paul Heyman and from WCW management.
Duncum was last involved in the "West Texas Rednecks" storyline, until he blew out his knee. He had been at home rehabbing his knee at the time of his death, and was said to have had "time on his hands". Dave Meltzer reported in last week's Wrestling Observer newsletter that between Duncum's lack of ability to fully train and the lifestyle he was leading, that he had lost as much as 50 pounds from his 260 pound frame at the time of his death.
According to a February 1st article in the Austin American-Statesman autopsy results indicate that Duncum's death was caused by a overdose of the painkiller Fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Duncum had three patches at the time of his death.
After posting last week's AS I SEE IT column, I received two e-mails from an individual that works well within one of the major wrestling companies in the United States.
In its unedited form, the e-mails were chilling as hell.
I asked permission from the writer to reprint these e-mails. I will be doing so, but with considerable disguising or masking of all identifying facts, due to the individual's current employment.
"I have worked on the periphery of the pro wrestling business for many years, as a [position omitted] for the old [territories omitted] and out of the ring. I have been close enough to the business without being affected by the dark side of it.
I have seen everything you talk about regarding drugs and drug testing. The one area that you didn't get into was where the states would stand on this issue. Within my wrestling business periphery falls a job for [a major wrestling company]...."
The individual also brought up one element of their job, having to work with State governing bodies and athletic commissions:
"...This usually means signing over a check to them for allowing the event to take place in their state. Most of them, as you probably know, are a joke and do nothing to regulate the 'sport' of professional wrestling.
In [state omitted], for example, I give the ring doctor five 100-dollar-bills for taking the blood pressure of each wrestler on the show and then allowing some guy to work with a 220/130 count because he's just 'worked up' for his match.
In other states... for example, I have to pay a certain amount for every wrestler, announcer, referee and manager. No medical check-up... just a simple tax. For a live [major TV show] in [state omitted] recently, the 'Commission' received $9,653.00 to allow the match. Free money. I doubt that state would want to force the major companies to look elsewhere for a venue. It's a one-night stand... here today, gone tomorrow and the state is $9,000 richer.
Imagine what states in the Northeast make in one night with no effort. I agree with you that the big companies need New York, New Jersey, etc. and would not run from those states because of new drug testing measures and regulations. But the other states with commissions, which make easy money, would be hard pressed to cooperate.....thus losing the money.
I agree with you... I was close to the [very well known names omitted] and I saw first hand the tragedy of [name omitted].
Finally, and I am sorry for the length, the major wrestling companies have always fallen back on one caveat: Wrestlers are 'independent contractors'. What a joke...they are under contract, they receive a paycheck that, in some cases, never reflects what they draw. However the companies don't have to provide medical insurance or any benefits or take out withholding tax as long as the boys are classified as independent contractors. They have 'limited responsibility', they say.
They are treated the same way actors are treated in Hollywood. Independent contractors. 'You got problems, better take care of them... by the way, if your immediate performance isn't hampered... what do we care?'...
I know you need credentials to give my reply to your story some merit. I know, and appreciate, the fact that you understand I'm in the middle a little bit here. I will level with you about my experience...."
This person then preceded to describe background that dates back to the 1970s, with background in TV, then befriended a particular promoter. This person then began working around the TV for a regional promotion.
[The individual] continued working in a capacity within "legitimate" TV broadcasting and within wrestling until the late 1980s, when [the individual] began to work fulltime within the business, where [the individual] is to this day.
What this person wrote was very real and easily verifiable, providing me with current occupation and office phone number.
It says something when an employee of a major wrestling company is so concerned about acknowledging the facts surrounding drug use within the business, and the money that changes hands that I have to go through that degree of concealment.
On one level, there isn't anything shocking about much of what he said. If I had listed the names edited out, you wouldn't be that surprised at all. Unless you work within wrestling, you also probably wouldn't know the name of the person who wrote these e-mails to me. But this person's employer, a person whose name you would recognize, would certainly know his name. Thus, the identifying names, locations, and job title were removed.
The individual who wrote me made some good points regarding the financial interest of State regulatory bodies in NOT enforcing anything that would derail the gravy train that puts money in their coffers.
If this is true, perhaps readers (many of whom are taxpayers) need to contact their State Athletic Commissions and pose these questions:
1) What testing for drugs, alcohol, and communicable diseases are being done on wrestlers performing in your state? If this testing is not being done, why?
2) If such testing is done, what safeguards are there under your State's law that these tests are conducted in a legitimate manner when performed on professional wrestlers?
3) What taxes/other revenue are derived from professional wrestling events in your state per year? How much of that revenue is derived from the three major wrestling companies? How much of it goes to drug education/counseling services of those performing within your state?
4) Are the laws applied differently to major national touring companies, as opposed to locally based (independent) companies?
If you'd like to follow through, here are ways in which you can contact representatives of the major athletic commissions:
NEW YORK STATE:
Melville Southard, Commissioner
New York State Department of State/New York State Athletic Commission
123 William Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Telephone: (212) 417-5700
Fax: (212) 417-4987
Maryland State Athletic Commission
State Athletic Control Board
PO Box 180 /CN - 180
Trenton, NJ 08625-0180
Telephone: (609) 292-3017
Fax: (609) 292-3756
Wrestling is governed by two different agencies, under the State Department of Professional Regulation, located at:
320 W. Washington
Springfield, Illinois 62786
Phone: (217) 785-0800
TDD: (217) 514-6735
Fax: (217) 782-7645
Send your requests for information in care of either of the following individuals:
* Jeffrey N. Dooley, Chairperson, Board of Athletic Trainers
This board licenses wrestling promoters.
* Phillip P. Siegel, Chairperson, Professional Boxing and Wrestling Board
This board is responsible for the overall supervision of professonal wrestling.
Nevada Athletic Commission
555 E. Washington Avenue, Suite 1500
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Telephone: (702) 486-2575
Facsimile: (702) 486-2577
State Athletic Commission
116 Pine Street - Third Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Telephone: (717) 787-5720
Fax: (717) 772-1892
Athletic Commission of Ohio
Union Square Plaza
2545 Belmont Avenue
Youngstown, Ohio 44505
Telephone: (330) 742-5120
Fax: (330) 742-2571
Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
920 Colorado/P.O. Box 12157
Austin, Texas 78711-2157
Athletic Commission phone numbers
Telephone: (512) 475-2875
Fax: (512) 475-2872
Louisiana State Athletic Commission
Telephone: (504) 568-8060
Fax: (504) 632-5560
Massachusetts State Athletic Commission
Telephone:(617) 727-3297 EXT#657
Fax: (617) 727-5732
Athletic Board of Control
Jim R. Edwards, Tom Paruszkiewicz, David A. Sebastian
Telephone: (517) 373-3105/(517) 241-9246
Fax: (517) 373-2795
Telephone: (919) 733-3924
Fax: (919) 821-0818
Telephone: (615) 741-2384
Fax: (615) 741-6470
Thus, you have telephone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and so forth for any of you reading who live in the above states. As a taxpayer, a voter, and a wrestling fan, contact these Departments/ Commissions/Boards and ask them if the revenue that they collect from professional wrestling is worth the death of one more wrestler; because the touring wrestling companies that operate in their states refuse to require random universal drug testing, and to provide employee assistance programs in order to deal with the rampant drug use plaguing the wrestling industry.
I'd be curious to hear what answers, if any, you receive from them.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)