Steroids Still Stalking Linda McMahon

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Linda McMahon, the Republican wrestling impresario, has crept to within striking distance of Richard Blumenthal in the Connecticut Senate race. But news that a 29-year-old former WWE wrestler died over the weekend of heart failure is bound to be a setback because it puts a spotlight on an issue--steroids--that's McMahon's Achilles heel. Why is steroids a problem? Because professional wrestling is rife with steroid abuse that has killed, or probably killed, a small army of current and former employees of McMahon's company, WWE. (It's not clear that the wrestler who died, Lance McNaught, had abused steroids...but how many 29-year-olds die of heart failure who haven't?) The problem is serious enough that even Congress has gotten involved.

McMahon has tried hard to avoid talking about the issue, and probably for good reason. A recent and very good Weekly Standard profile of McMahon described some of the carnage--and it's enough to give anyone pause about McMahon's fitness for office:

[McMahon's] problem is that over the last few decades, professional wrestlers who worked for the WWE have been dropping dead at a terrifying rate... In 2007, WWE star Chris Benoit killed his wife and son before committing suicide. Benoit was 40. (Steroids were found in his house.) Eddie Guerrero, another former WWE champ, was found dead in a hotel room. The cause of death was heart failure. He was 38. Bam Bam Bigelow, Mike Awesome, Crash Holly, Umaga, Yokozuna, Brian Pillman, Davey Boy Smith, Rick Rude, Big Boss Man, Earthquake, Curt Hennig, Hercules, Big John Studd, Road Warrior Hawk, Chris Kanyon, Andrew "Test" Martin--all of these former WWE stars have died in recent years. None was older than 46. This is a partial list.

Keith Pinckard, a medical examiner who tracks pro wrestling deaths, has calculated that wrestlers have a death rate 7 times higher than the general population and are 12 times more likely to die from heart disease than other Americans in the same age groups.


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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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