AS I SEE IT - 4/28/2000
by: Bob Magee
A welcome to Internet Pro Wrestling Zone.Net and TRG Wrestling.com, which have joined the 69 websites/e-newsletters carrying AS I SEE IT.
Sounds like someone finally listened...
Witness the following article from By L. Anne Newell of the Associated Press:
"Pro Wrestler Drug Tests Proposed
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A New York lawmaker is recommending mandatory drug testing for professional wrestlers competing in his state, saying it's not a jab at the simulated violence but a way to protect children trying to emulate their heroes.
'Almost all other major professional sports have adopted similar requirements for legal participation,' said Republican Sen. Thomas Libous. Drug testing as part of the state's licensing requirements would show fans the wrestlers are drug-free, plus it would improve the level of competition and protect the wrestlers' health, he said.
World Wrestling Federation officials say it's a plan that hits below the belt.
'We are performers, we are showmen, he'd be drug testing everyone on Broadway. He'd be drug testing the circus,' said WWF Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon. 'If in fact he's trying to single us out, that is unconstitutional,' McMahon said.
Wrestlers seeking licenses to compete in New York already must give references, divulge any criminal history and submit to a pre-match physical.
Libous' proposal would take that a step further by adding the drug tests and punishment for wrestlers who fail them.
Wrestlers who tested positive for drugs one time would be prohibited from wrestling in the state for 24-hours under the proposal. A second positive test would strip them of the license for a year and fine their sponsors $25,000. A third would mean a permanent ban from New York competition and $100,000 fine for the sponsors.
Alan Sharp, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling said he could not comment on the proposal without having seen it.
But Sharp and McMahon said WCW and WWF wrestlers undergo pre-employment drug tests, and the WCW randomly tests its employees. The WWF said it reserves the right to test anyone who exhibits signs of drug use.
New York would not be the first state to mandate drug tests for pro wrestlers. Last July, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber led an effort to preserve that state's mandatory drug testing. The WWF is currently boycotting the state because of its intense wrestling licensing requirements, McMahon said.
McMahon also disagreed with Libous statements that professional wrestlers are role models.
'We have roles that we play,' he said, 'but under no circumstances do we hold ourselves out as role models.' "
OK, so Vince McMahon wants government restrictions on wrestling, just not THAT kind of government restrictions...on HIS company.
Apparently Vincent K. McMahon's recent views on State governments regulating professional wrestling only apply to smaller companies with content he borrows, then condemns. But when such proposed regulations affect HIS company, in a manner that may help save the lives of wrestlers, and that will require personal and financial accountability from World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., its corporate officers, and its stockholder, that is another thing altogether.
In one set of instances, we're talking about content in wrestling. We're talking about whether or not a promoter chooses to have his workers perform a particular style, whether or not they choose to perform that kind of style, whether or not state governments needs to tell that promoter if the company can perform in that style; or how old those who watch performances of that style should be. Despite what the Whitmans and Dorias of the world say, there is no matter of outstanding public concern or safety involved in that.
But in the other instance, we're talking about regulations that could help rein in the rampant use of somas, painkillers, GHB, and related drugs; as well as steroids, HGH, and other growth-enhancing substances. We're talking about a matter affecting people's safety, life, and death. We're talking about a profession that has constantly and consistently refused to govern itself and its workers regarding drug use.
Yet each time I write a column on this subject, I'm asked one more time: Why do we need such regulation?
Jay Youngblood. Rick McGraw. David (Von Erich) Adkisson. Mike Adkisson. Chris Adkisson. Kerry Adkisson. Buzz Sawyer. Eddie Gilbert. Art Barr. Brian Pillman. Louie Spicolli. Neil "The Power Superior" Caricofe. Rick Rude. Bobby Duncum Jr.
How about this passage from the February 21, 1999 AS I SEE IT?
"...So it's the worst irony of all to read in last week's Pro Wrestling Torch that drug use in ECW is at an all-time high. Further, there are people designated to clean up needles and other drug paraphernalia from the locker room after ECW house shows, IN ORDER NOT TO LOSE THE VENUE.
Think about that. The concern of Paul Heyman and ECW officials is not to lose the venue.
Forget the fact that a number of Paul Heyman's workers frequently use prescription drugs, pot, and growth-enhancing drugs. Forget the fact that they don't even bother to hide that fact, something I reported on in a previous AS I SEE IT regarding an ECW worker who was handing out percosets at the door of the Philadelphia Stadium Holiday Inn hotel bar. If that's not enough for you, what about the fact that an article featuring Rob Van Dam in High Times magazine is treated like some sort of professional triumph by ECW.
I remember reading about Kerry Adkisson's suicide in February 1993, and reading that people weren't really surprised.
I remember hearing over the phone from ECW referee Jim Molineaux about Eddie Gilbert's death in February 1995; as I prepared to go down to Baltimore for SuperBrawl. Then I remember saying to someone that I was 'shocked but not surprised'.
I remember being online early in the morning a year ago, and finding out that Louie Spicolli had died... and remembering the times he'd come back into the TraveLodge after an ECW Arena show... barely able to walk. Given what I'd seen, I guess I wasn't surprised about Louie's death, either.
Sadly, I'm sure I won't be the least bit surprised when someone dies again.
Because promoters like Paul Heyman continue to operate with a 'business as usual' mindset. They find it very easy to do damage control. They find it easier and easier to wash the blood from their hands.
Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff aren't much better in this regard, though. Hell, Eric Bischoff STILL hasn't ever admitted that somas can be tested for; an issue that PWBTS brought up after Louie Spicolli's death. It's funny how PWBTS was able to get that information through a little online research; while a major corporation wasn't willing to do so.
So this February, another series of sad anniversaries passes. Unless the major wrestling promoters in this country enact REAL drug testing and drug rehabilitation programs for their workers, it may well not be long before another is added to the list...."
What has been the response to this sort of opinions expressed by myself and many others by the above companies?
At best, nothing whatever from the WWF, other than the vague comments about having some sort of unspecified drug testing program whose nature they never seem to share with the public.
Then there's WCW, which has never repudiated the statements from its once and current head Eric Bischoff. Bischoff once claimed in a PRODIGY chat two years ago, after the death of Louie Spicolli, somas can't be tested for.
After Bischoff made these claims two years ago, Fritz Capp of PWBTS and I quite easily found, through online research and a few e-mails, companies that DO testing for somas, how much the tests cost, and the means by which the presence of somas are detected. One has to wonder why two people on a wrestling website can discover information readily available to anyone, but a major conglomerate such as Time-Warner-Turner cannot. Or more likely, WILL not.
At worst however, was an angry comment from ECW referee Jeff Jones to PWBTS webmaster Fritz Capp regarding the comment about the "sanitizing" of locker rooms: "How do you know what goes on in our locker room... all you [PWBTS] do is trash ECW".
Leaving out the obvious fact that the item in question was quoted from the PRO WRESTLING TORCH and not originated by myself or anyone at PWBTS... such a comment shows that the wrestling industry is still in denial about the rampant drug use within it. It's easier to attack the messenger than to acknowledge the problem.
It's also apparently easier for a representative of ECW to ignore the question as whether or not such drug use was going at the time within his own locker room than to confront what was going on around him... a situation that resulted in three high-profile ECW names being fired directly or indirectly because of drug use.
All of THAT is why we need this kind of regulation.
Now there are already those online writers, including Al Isaacs of SCOOPS. concerned about New York State "becoming another Oregon" (read: WCW and WWF boycotting the state as they do Oregon).
To me, that's a bogus issue.
There's no way in hell Vince McMahon is going to throw away lucrative sellouts at Madison Square Garden.
First, there's too much money to be made. Witness the gate at the April 15th Madison Square Garden house show: 16,925 paid/19,588 total for a house gate of $509,499 (Wrestling Observer 4/22/00). This doesn't even count the tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise revenue. As you can see, it's a very different matter not to run shows at the Rose Garden in Oregon versus not running shows at MSG.
Second, let Vince McMahon try to explain why he's not running shows in New York State to those within the largest media market in the United States.
Any responsible reporter (let alone Phil Mushnick) would have a field day with this one. Not to mention the fact that since the WWFE is publicly held, he'd potentially have to explain it to stockholders.
It's time for WCW, the WWF, and ECW to make the choice to enact REAL drug testing. It's up to the wrestling business, once and for all, to decide if it will get serious about drug abuse. It's time for them to decide if they give a damn about their employees. It's time for them to decide if they give a damn about their companies and their long-term futures.
Either that, or states like New York will make that choice for them. New York State can be a key in establishing drug testing within the wrestling industry, because the state knows promoters like Vince McMahon will have no choice but to comply, or to forestall government oversight by adopting their own testing mechanisms.
My long-term hope is for a policy of universal random testing within major 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.
I also hope for serious financial sanctions against companies if they attempt to use a worker that test dirty, much along the line of what is proposed with the New York drug testing regulations. Let's make sure that the money from those fines pays for REAL drug education and rehabilitation programs within wrestling industry, and doesn't just wind up in State coffers.
In my opinion, it will take this sort of testing to prevent the endless parade of deaths and disabilities that have resulted from the drug epidemic within wrestling. I'm tired of the farce of company- operated "drug testing" that results in stars being conveniently leaked times when testing will take place... the farce that allows dirty tests to be ignored if it will interfere with a major storyline and PPV main event.
To be blunt about it, the bodies are starting to pile up and they're starting to stink. So is the fact that Vince McMahon, Paul Heyman, and Eric Bischoff don't seem to care about the blood on their hands from those bodies. Not unless someone wants to make them do something about them.
Wrestling fans that actually CARE about the wrestlers they watch live, on pay-per-view, or on television should support such legislation, actively and aggressively. NOW.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)