Chris Nowinski, a former WWE wrestler, is now an advocate for preventing head trauma in contact sports. Here he offers some damning criticism of Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon and the WWE in an interview on the death last week of fellow wrestler Lance Cade of heart failure, accusing McMahon of "kicking dirt" on Cade's grave. His main claim against McMahon: that, under her leadership, the WWE was an unsafe environment that promoted steroids be rewarding wrestlers who used (WWE now tests for steroids)..
Some of his comments:
Her quote in the paper was, "I might have met Lance once," which is just kicking dirt on the guy's grave. They have an environment where it's absolutely unsafe to work in that ring. They have no oversight into what actually happens in the ring, and they are encouraging steroid use. ...
I retired from concussions, and now this is my life. And only now, even understanding how other sports treats their workers, do I realize how bad it was there. ...
Of course we all knew [steroid use] was a problem prior that [the deaths of Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero], but they only change it when people look into it. Luckily they have no media following them, so they've been able to get away with it. ...
Responding to questions about Cade's death, McMahon told the Connecticut Post that the WWE can no more be held accountable for the deaths of wrestlers "than a studio could have prevented Heath Ledger's death." Nowinski called that claim "garbage."
WWE implemented steroid testing as part of its employee wellness program in 2006. After wrestlers were warned of the new policy, 40% of them tested positive for steroids during the first round of testing, according to findings from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2009.
The WWE's history of steroid abuse is a prime weapon McMahon's opponents will use against her, and have already used against her, as the fall elections approach. McMahon and her campaign have consistently dismissed the attacks, touting her time as WWE CEO as a venture that created jobs in Connecticut.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.