Is it fair to blame WWE for the death of pro-wrestlers?

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"Is it fair to blame WWE for the death of pro-wrestlers?"
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The murder-suicide involving Professional Wrestler Chris Benoit sparked a media frenzy surrounding death and drug use in the world of Pro-Wrestling. Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself in his weight room in June 2007 and after steroids were found in his home the media had a field day with stories of drug use and abuse leading to death in professional wrestling.

There certainly does appear to be a high death rate amongst professional wrestlers and the media appears to be pointing the blame squarely at the door of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and its owner, Vince McMahon. The major media focus is drug use, more specifically the use of steroids amongst wrestlers.

After the death of Eddie Guerrero in 2005 World Wrestling Entertainment implemented its “wellness policy” a more intensive drug testing policy than the previous testing policy. The wellness policy also includes cardiovascular testing and monitoring. So with this testing policy in place can World Wrestling Entertainment really be blamed for drug use and death amongst professional wrestlers?

There is no denying the high death rate in wrestling and shortly after Benoit’s death there was a list floating around in the media of wrestlers that have died before the age of 65. The media places the blame for these deaths on the industry and more so on the WWE. The media however failed to mention the fact that many of the wrestlers on the list have never actually worked for World Wrestling Entertainment and many of them died of causes in no way related to professional wrestling or drug use. As well as the fact that although the list was long, it also spanned many decades and included accidental deaths and at least one murder as well as wrestlers who died of completely natural causes.

Is there drug use in wrestling? Of course there is, there is drug use in our society and wrestlers are members of society just like everyone else but just as in the rest of society, drug users are in the minority in wrestling. WWE has an extensive drug testing policy in place, and they do enforce it. If a wrestler tests positive for drugs that have not been prescribed to them they are suspended and if they violate the policy three times they will have their contract with the company terminated. WWE also sends wrestlers to rehab and pays for their treatment if they fail drugs tests on more than one occasion as per the wellness policy. Recently WWE has also offered to pay for drug rehab treatment for former wrestlers who are struggling with drug addiction and some have taken them up on this offer.

WWE is doing all it can to minimise drug use in wrestling and to help wrestlers who do have a problem. They are doing more than any other sports company are doing to try and help wrestlers get clean when they have a problem, and have one of the most vigorous testing policies in any sport, which not only tests for drug use but also monitors the health of wrestlers so that any health problems can be spotted and treated early.

Is there really any more that WWE can do? If a person chooses to take drugs then do we blame anyone else other than that person? No of course we don’t, so therefore if a wrestler decides to take steroids or other drugs for whatever reason is that Vince McMahon’s fault? Or the fault of World wrestling Entertainment? Or the industry as a whole? Of course the answer is no, if a wrestler chooses to use drugs then just like everyone else it was their own free choice and there is no one else to blame.


More about this author: Kirsty O'Lone