Friday News on Benoit Tragedy

On last night’s Live with Dan Abrams on MSNBC, the host discussed “reports within the wrestling industry… which has not been confirmed by NBC” that Chris Benoit recently took out a life insurance policy that listed his ex-wife and two oldest children as beneficiaries (not Nancy or son Daniel), and that Nancy confronted Chris about this but he refused to change it. (Read more about this here.)

Also, Abrams quoted an AP story that spoke with Chris Benoit’s mother Margaret, who reportedly said, in response to a question about whether DEA investigators could have saved Chris, Nancy and Daniel’s lives if they had busted Chris and/or his doctor for steroids: “It’s so late now, too late. You can’t turn the clock back … We would certainly hope so. We just don’t know.”

Abrams had Marc Mero and Dave Meltzer as guests on his show, as well as BJ Bernstein, a defense attorney. Bernstein suggested that maybe the DEA could have done something about it. Abrams disagrees completely, showing quotes from the DEA that they can take action against users, but the real target are steroid distributors. Mero said one problem is that there are a lot of doctors who are fans and willing to prescribe the wrestlers what they need. “If this doctor’s not gonna write you a script, another doctor will.” When all is said and done, other doctors will be linked to Dr. Astin, said Meltzer, and that “a lot of Atlanta wrestlers were seeing Dr. Astin because he had the reputation of being the handyman with the prescription pad.”

On the life insurance report, Meltzer said that Nancy told her friend that Chris had taken out the life insurance policy, and she had confronted him and they had a big argument recently. He went on to say that he didn’t know if the life insurance policy did indeed exist, but the conversation between Nancy and her friend did happen. He also said that a lot of Chris and Nancy’s arguments were about financial issues and she was scared recently.

Abrams went over different “Benoit Murder Theories” — on ‘roid rage, or more widely a combination of use of different drugs. Meltzer and Mike Boettcher of NBC News Atlanta said a combination of drugs could have been a major factor here, with Boettcher saying that authorities are telling him all signs point to a double-murder/suicide (Abrams had asked him if anyone was taking a triple-homicide theory seriously), and that “don’t get stuck just on the steroids, I’m being warned, painkillers may be involved, and as well alcohol because there were the empty wine bottles and beer cans around, and the combination of them is not good.”

When talking about theory two, domestic dispute, Abrams read from a statement that Atlanta authorities said that there was no note from Nancy in the previously-reported-on safe deposit box saying if something happened to her, look at Chris (see final story below for more on this). This was originally reported by Meltzer, but he didn’t seem aware of the new statement and Abrams didn’t give him much time to respond.

Theory three was the deaths had something to do with the care of Daniel Benoit, but this wasn’t discussed much.

The overall vibe of the segment was Mero saying no one would have expected this horrible behavior from Chris Benoit; Meltzer talking about the arguments Chris and Nancy had; and the overall theme that a combination of drugs, alcohol and some sort of domestic dispute — which may or may not have had to do with Daniel — led to this tragedy.

Other related news:

– Meltzer, Mero and Steve Blackman were also on the Nancy Grace show on CNN/Headline News. They talked a lot about the idea mentioned above that the DEA perhaps could have stopped this if they stepped in sooner, but guest host Jane Velez-Mitchell went on to ask Mero if he ever did steroids and how it’s affected his health. He admitted to using steroids for seven years in pro wrestling and beforehand to get into the business, and said while he doesn’t know the full impact of steroids on his body, he has needed to have a valve replaced in his heart, but who knows how the steroids affected that. When asked about GHB, Mero said wrestlers would use it in the 90s to come down from other highs and get some sleep. The show then turned to talking about how a “drug cocktail” can have very negative results, how steroids can be psychologically addictive, a debate on whether or not ‘roid rage can last over a period of three days.

Blackman finally had a chance to speak, and said he never took steroids while he was in the WWF (although he did in the late 80s until he had “an allergic reaction to them”), but this is more an issue of personal responsibility, and no one’s putting steroids on a platter “and shoving them down your throats.” Mero pushed him to “get off the fence” and take this opportunity to speak up and do something about all of the families that are ruined by an unregulated wrestling industry, and CNN/HN went to a split-screen and they cut wrestling promos on each other into commercial. When they came back, Blackman said a lot of his friends that he started in wrestling with are dead, but reiterated the point about personal responsibility; Mero said wrestlers have no health insurance, are dying and something needs to be done, and plugged a program he’s a part of in Florida where he will come to high schools and talk about steroids.

Other topics discussed: is domestic violence rampant in pro wrestling (as Debra Williams has suggested)? If wrestling is regulated, what type of oversight should happen (Mero also suggests testing equivalent to what the Olympics do along with a two-month off-season, perhaps following Wrestlemania)? They went on the assumption that an outside group doesn’t do WWE’s drug testing (not true), but there wasn’t anyone on the show from WWE to defend the company’s policies (Mitchell mentioned that she has been trying to get a spokesman from WWE on the show, but to no avail).

– Kevin Nash was on Hannity & Colmes, according to PWTorch.com, and got into it a bit with the guest host that took Hannity’s place last night.

– Earlier this week on MSNBC, WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt was a guest with Dan Abrams, and a video of his appearance has been posted to YouTube.com:



Some notable points: McDevitt said that WWE’s June 26 press release discouraging reporting on ‘roid rage as the cause for the three-day tragedy was meant to point out what local Georgia authorities said at the press conference (steroids weren’t directly related to the cause of death, which was asphyxiation, etc.) and that WWE urges the media to wait until all the facts come in. On the WWE tribute to Benoit, Abrams asked if WWE is sorry for doing so. Abrams felt that Vince McMahon didn’t apologize the next night, but McDevitt disagreed. “Nobody knew what happened in that house until basically the next day,” McDevitt said. To the point of whether or not Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome, McDevitt clarified that the notion Daniel had the syndrome came from a woman who went on a Canadian radio station and that “in or around the same time that that information came to light the next day, certain information started to come to our attention about the family situation, which we have made available and have told the law enforcement people everything we know that would indicate that within Chris’ family that there were issues that they were having with their son that was a source of tension.” McDevitt went on to say that the issue of whether or not Daniel had that syndrome can be determined via a scientific test, so we should wait until those tests are done to find out.

In the next segment, Dan Abrams asked McDevitt about WWE’s drug testing program. McDevitt said their program was implemented in February 2006 and “it has had an impact. It had an impact on Chris. These people that want to speculate about that, that’s going to be part of it all. All we can talk about is the effort we are making and continuing to make to do our part to try to detect when there is abuse of drugs, correct it, and if you cannot correct it, discipline it, and if discipline doesn’t work to have them exit the organization. That is all any company can do. As far as this notion of wrestlers dying and all the rest of that, we’ve heard various talk about lists but nobody ever shows what list they’re talking about…” Abrams listed some statistics from a USA Today story on wrestler deaths, and McDevitt said that many of the wrestlers often listed never had any affiliation with WWE and that “as far as we know, the number of people who have died prematurely while under contract to the WWE, where there is some ability at least if you will, to try to influence their behavior, is far smaller than that number, and when you examine, for example, the two I’m familiar with as I sit here, and I’ll be glad to talk about any case you’d like if you give me enough advance notice to tell you … but for example, Davey Boy Smith is one of the people that is always on that list, when you look at the autopsy report for Davey Boy Smith, they tested his body for steroids at the time and he didn’t have any.” Abrams then went on to talk to other guests about the situation.

– Wade Keller at PWTorch.com writes why WWE’s right to say its press release has been misinterpreted.

– The Associated Press asked WWE spokesman Gary Davis whether or not WWE knew for sure that Daniel Benoit had Fragile X. The article states that, according to Davis, WWE attorney “McDevitt was “confident” that the information was accurate, after speaking with other WWE employees who knew Benoit. But Davis says none of those employees specifically mentioned Fragile X Syndrome.” Davis said that “a lot of people got caught up in the idea that Daniel had Fragile X syndrome… We were just as caught up as everyone else.”

– Val Venis wrote on his political blog the following two posts (note the dates):

Goodbye my friend!

Chris Benoit was a very good friend of mine. Chris and I would goto dinner after the shows and talk about everything from growing up in Canada to politics in the USA. He was a great wrestler and I will miss him very much. Good-bye my friend. I will miss you very much.

Sean Morley

Posted by freetarian on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 5:12 PM

How I feel about Benoit???

Many people have been writing me with questions regarding the Benoit family tragedy. I am currently taking in what the police reports and (mainstream)news media outlets are saying about this tragic event. I will make my comments regarding Chris and the media in the next couple of days.

Posted by freetarian on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 9:20 PM

– Warrior was finally on Hannity & Colmes this week, and posted a video of his appearance on his blog. He talked a lot about the difference between steroid “use” and “abuse,” basically (from my perspective) saying that while WWE’s drug tests are a ruse, there are plenty of wrestlers, body builders, etc., who use steroids responsibly and don’t murder their families. He promises a longer post on his opinions on the Benoit tragedy soon.

– Politico.com has written a story looking at the point of view of Congressional regulation.

– There’s an interesting article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution looking at other factors that could have led to Chris Benoit’s violent behavior, including drugs and taking the violent wrestling culture home with him.

– Manny Arora, Dr. Phil Astin’s attorney, told Fox Atlanta that his client did not prescribe anabolic steroids to Chris Benoit and that “There’s nothing like that in the indictment.” Fox Atlanta is also reporting that authorities saw photographs of other wrestlers in Astin’s office which led to them seizing records of those individuals as well.

– And finally, Fox Atlanta is also reporting that Internet reports are “frustrating” to investigators in the Benoit case. An excerpt from the article:

Fayette County detectives said there was no truth to a report that was posted on the website, prowrestling.com that said that Nancy had written what the website called, “a strange note” before her death that stated that if something happened to her then Chris would be to blame.

Investigators said a safe deposit box, which the website reported contained the note, actually held typical documents and had no personal writings from Nancy Benoit in it.

Detectives say this kind of internet report is typical of what they call conspiracy theories that have been phoned into the Sheriff’s office from as far away as California since the bodies were discovered.

(Note: Pulse Wrestling reported the same rumor about the safe deposit box, which came from the July 2 issue of Dave Meltzer’s respected Wrestling Observer Newsletter, as well as a clarification about another rumor which is mentioned in the Fox story but was corrected by Meltzer on his Web site. In the issue, Meltzer writes that around the time after Johnny Grunge died (February 16, 2006), “Nancy put a note in a safe deposit box that area police are believed to be aware of… the note basically said that if anything happened to her, it was Chris who did it.” Meltzer goes on to write that on Thursday, June 21, 2007 (the day before authorities think she was murdered), “Nancy called one of her closest friends, who also knew Chris well, and said she was scared to death, and also reiterated that, ‘If anything happens to me, look at Chris.'”)

The Fox Atlanta story also says that, according to investigators, Nancy’s parents were staying at the home where the crimes took place but recently left for Daytona, Florida, where they live and where a memorial for Nancy and Daniel is planned next weekend. (We have chosen not to publish details on the memorial service.)

The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock wrote a very insightful column today on pro wrestlers being exploited by the industry.

The comments section below is tied to all news updates on this topic from the past few days. You can discuss the Benoit tragedy below or in our wrestling forum. We’ll have more updates to this story here as well as in the forum as it is available.

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