Monday News on Benoit Tragedy

According to Fox Atlanta, by way of a report on PWTorch.com, the Federal Search Warrant for Chris Benoit’s doctor stated “Dr. Astin has been identified as prescrbing on average a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Mr. Benoit every 3 to 4 weeks from May 4, 2006 to May 9, 2007.” At a press conference earlier today, U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia David Nahmias stated that Dr. Phil Astin was indicted on charges of unlawful prescriptions to two patients (not Benoit; for drugs other than steroids — see below) and that Astin released on $125,000 secured bond with the surrender of his medical licence and his DEA certificate, while being given an electronic monitor.

On this allegation, if it turns out to be true, Dave Meltzer at WrestlingObserver.com today wrote that most in the media will feel WWE’s testing is a sham, even though he doesn’t feel that is the case (other possibilities are the testing was flawed or simply Benoit found a way to beat the tests). Says Meltzer: “This is the first time when I truly fear that wrestling as we know it not only will be undergoing great changes, but that as bad as Vince McMahon’s reputation is in some circles, and even with his history of rebounding from negatives, this will tarnish it to a level that he may never live to fully turn around. There will be a far increased number of cries in the media over the next week, which have already started, to do something about the industry. Between the advertisers, sponsors, and those action figures with the muscular physiques, this is not a story going away soon.”

Here’s the latest update from the Associated Press, from around 3pm ET today: Chris Benoit’s doctor has been charged with “improperly dispensing painkillers and other drugs to patients other than the pro wrestler” — recipients identified as only “M.J.” and “O.G.” with Benoit’s initials not listed on the indictment — including Percocet, Xanax, Lorcet and Vicoprofen “between April 2004 and September 2005.”

Fox News has an update on this story here (video).

Here is a press release from the Drug Enforcement Agency, as posted on PWInsider.com:

Doctor Charged with Illegal Drug Distribution
Dr. Astin Allegedly Provided Over A Million Doses of Prescription
Drugs and Steroids in Two Year Period

JUL 2 — ATLANTA–Dr. Phillippe C. Astin, III, 52, of Carrollton, Georgia, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for illegal distribution of prescription drugs, including Percocet, Adderall, Lorcet, and Xanax, outside the usual scope of medical practice and not for legitimate medical purposes. Astin was charged today in a seven-count criminal indictment and made his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker. Astin was initially charged in a federal criminal complaint issued last Friday, after DEA agents and officers from the Fayette and Carroll County Sheriff’s Offices executed search warrants at his medical office last week.

David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said, “Prescription drugs are controlled substances because if they are abused, they can cause serious addiction, illness, or even death. Dr. Astin allegedly prescribed such drugs like candy, with little regard for appropriate medical practice or the recipients’ health. Dirty doctors should be on notice that they face federal prosecution and prison time as we work with the DEA and other law enforcement partners to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

“Addressing the problem of the diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is a top priority for DEA,” said Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “I would like to add that the purchase of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs over the internet continues to be a major issue. An internet search of steroids and pharmaceutical products over the internet both yield over 2 million hits. The diversion of these drugs through doctor shopping, improper prescribing and rogue internet pharmacies continues to be a major concern. We want to make it clear that through our investigative techniques, those held responsible for the distribution of such products will ultimately be brought to justice.”

According to Nahmias, documents and information presented in court: The indictment charges that Astin prescribed several prescription drugs, which are controlled substances, including Percocet (oxycodone), Adderall (amphetamine), Lorcet (hydrocodone), and Xanax (alprazolam), to two patients who are not identified by name. For one patient, the prescriptions began in April of 2004 and continued for more than a year. The indictment identifies seven dates on which the prescriptions were issued to the two patients. According to the indictment, these patients received multiple prescriptions for the drugs, all on the same date, even though some of the prescriptions were undated. Federal law requires medical practitioners to sign and date each prescription for controlled substances on the date that it is issued.

According to Nahmias, although the indictment identifies prescriptions written on only seven dates to two patients, the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible after agents and prosecutors review the evidence, including voluminous documents obtained in the searches. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of all proceeds from and property used to commit or facilitate the alleged crimes.

Last Wednesday and Friday, DEA and local law enforcement officers searched Dr. Astin’s medical office, located at 702 Dixie Street, Carrollton, Georgia. Agents also searched Astin’s mother’s residence, located at 532 Cedar Street, Carrollton, Georgia. Dr. Phil Astin III is registered with the DEA under the provisions of the Controlled Substance Act, to handle and prescribe schedule II through V controlled substances. Dr. Astin is registered at his office address.

On June 25, 2007, local authorities discovered the deceased body of one of Astin’s patients, Chris Benoit, at Benoit’s home located in Fayetteville, Georgia. The deceased bodies of Benoit’s wife and child were also found at the home. DEA Diversion indices, as well as evidence found at the crime scene by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, identified Dr. Astin as the supplier of various pharmaceutical controlled substances, including injectable anabolic steroids, found in Mr. Benoit’s residence. Through prescription records for Mr. Benoit maintained at a pharmacy in Fayetteville, Georgia, Dr. Astin was identified as prescribing, on average, a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Mr. Benoit every three to four weeks from May 4, 2006 through May 9, 2007.

While executing a state search warrant at Dr. Astin’s medical office on June 27, 2007, agents and officers seized copies of prescriptions written by Dr. Astin for Testosterone, Xanax, Adderall, Concerta, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Soma, which were consistent, in terms of quantities, dosages, and frequencies of the prescriptions, with illegal prescription drug abuse. Multiple undated copies of prescriptions for controlled substances were also found in various medical records.

A preliminary review of Dr. Astin’s prescription writing activity showed that he authorized approximately one million dosage units of various pharmaceutical controlled substances in the last two years. The prescriptions also included significant quantities of injectable Testosterone cypionate, an anabolic steroid.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Fayette County Sheriff Department’s Drug Suppression Task Force, with the assistance of the West Georgia Drug Task Force, and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department. Assistance has also been provided by the office of Scott L. Ballard, District Attorney, Griffin Judicial Circuit, and the office of Pete Skandalakis, District Attorney, Coweta Judicial Circuit.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Horn and Carol Kayser.

Earlier today, the AP reported that Astin has turned himself in to authorities. “Attorney Manny Arora said Dr. Phil Astin will face a single charge involving improperly prescribing medication at a hearing later Monday,” according to the article.

The Associated Press also quoted Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard: “From our standpoint, I have no reason to believe there will be any criminal charges at the current time … What the federal government is going to do, it will be up to them.”

Another AP story quotes the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee on its anti-doping efforts: “Someone needs to step up, say enough is enough, and we’re going to do what we can do to combat that problem.”

Yet another AP story looks at the tragedy from a wrestling fan’s perspective.

Fox Atlanta continues to post updates on the Benoit family tragedy, including videos on Sunday and Thursday relating to Chris Benoit’s physician, Dr. Phil Astin, and potential legal trouble he may be in. According to a report of this coverage on PWTorch.com, boxes, computers and file cabinets were removed from Astin’s office by federal agents (the office was raided twice).

DA Scott Ballard released this statement to TMZ.com:

There are additional reports that contradict the earlier information that suggested that Daniel Benoit may have suffered from Dwarf Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. Daniel’s family denies that he suffered from either condition. As a result of the family’s concerns, the Fayette County Sheriff’s investigators and the District Attorney’s Office have inquired into this matter. A source having access to certain of Daniel’s medical reports reviewed those reports, and they do not mention any pre-existing mental or physical impairment. Reports from Daniel’s educators likewise contradict the claims that Daniel was physically undersized. The educators report that Daniel graduated kindergarten and was prepared to enter the first grade on par with the other students.

PWTorch.com has since posted this:

Chris Benoit’s son had Fragile X Syndrome according to Pam Winthrope, when interviewed on Vancouver’s News1130 radio last week. Winthrope said her husband, who has since died, talked to Chris after hearing his son was diagnosed with Fragile X. Pam says her husband told her that Chris chose not to go public with the matter because he wanted to deal with the situation privately. PWTorch has learned that Pam Winthrope does not know how specifically her husband had come to believe Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome.

When interviewed on CNN/HN tonight, Alex Marvez said that the WWE attorney told him that Nancy called Dr. Astin on Thursday to ask about treating Daniel Benoit, that Chris visited Dr. Astin on Friday to talk about his son and was prescribed Chris Zoloft.

In Newsday, it was reported this afternoon that WWE issued a statement that its drug testing policy is “one of the most aggressive of its kind compared to testing programs initiated by competitive sports organizations, and is unique for an entertainment company” and that the company “will make any improvements necessary to maintain it as a state-of-the-art program to the utmost betterment of our performers, fans, and business partners.” The statement goes on to say, according to the paper, that the policy “was designed to send a very clear message that WWE finds the abuse of drugs and steroids to be unacceptable.”

Jon Saraceno’s latest column in USA Today cites the paper’s 2004 article on wrestling deaths, in which WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt was quoted as saying steroid testing “just doesn’t work.” Mr. Perfect’s father Larry Hennig is quoted in the column as well.

In his newsletter over at Figure 4 Weekly Online from last Tuesday or Wednesday, Bryan Alvarez said that he was told Chris and Nancy Benoit fought over him using steroids many times in the past, but that overall, aside from perhaps the 2003 protection order when Nancy filed for divorce, “even Benoit’s close friends knew nothing about what was going on at home.” He also noted that all Benoit signs were confiscated at Tuesday’s ECW/Smackdown tapings. Some notes from last night’s radio show with Alvarez and Dave Meltzer can be found in the comments section of yesterday’s Pulse Wrestling Digest that includes links to all of the past week’s stories on this tragedy, and a full recap has been posted over at WrestlingObserver.com.

The UK Sun published details on how Chris Benoit may have killed his son, quoting Dave Meltzer’s newsletter which suggests bruising was consistent with that which would occur if Chris used a choke similar to his signature ‘crossface’ move.

To see a video clip of Bill Apter’s appearance on Fox News that we reported on over the weekend, click here. Apter brought up the possibility of a triple-murder in this case, and an expert in response suggests that investigators must have found something at the crime scene to rule that out.

CNBC.com has a story asking why WWE.com has removed Chris Benoit content from its archives, talking about the recent stock decrease and more.

Zach Arnold’s column at Sportsline.com looks at potential regulation of pro wrestling by sports commissions.

For a transcript of Bret Hart’s recent appearance on CNN’s Nancy Grace show, click here. Bret turns 50 today and Konnan and Alex Marvez will be on Nancy Grace tonight.

According to WrestlingObserver.com, New Jack was on WSB-TV in Atlanta “saying he has used steroids, knows who does and doesn’t and that the guys all have a doctor they can call 24/7 to get them.” He went on to say that he was mad at Chris and was good friends with Nancy.

In his latest Chicago Sun-Times article, Blackjack Brown says WWE needs to get on with the show, and suggests that John Cena may lose his title soon to shake things up a bit and keep fans on their toes.

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