Congress Comments on WWE, Vince McMahon Responds

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Congress’ Subcommittee on Commerce Trade & Consumer Protection, chaired by Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), held a hearing yesterday morning on “Drugs in Sports: Compromising the Health of Athletes and Undermining the Integrity of Competition.” The purpose was to get testimony from sports leaders and eventually introduce a bill to combat drug use in sports. According to WrestlingObserver.com, scheduled to testify included George Mitchell, Bud Selig, David Stern, Donald Fehr, William Hunter, Roger Goodell, Gary Bettman, Gene Upshaw, Paul Kelly, Jim Scherr, Travis Tygart, Myles Brand and reps from High School sports and horse racing.

Some notes on lawmakers’ comments and WWE’s response:

– Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) stated that the major sports and pro wrestling should adopt a uniform testing policy that complies with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s.

– Rep. Rush said Vince McMahon was the only person invited who did not attend, due to a scheduling conflict with his attorney, but they would indeed look into pro wrestling, and mentioned the Chris Benoit tragedy. According to reports on PWInsider.com, Rush mispronounced Benoit as “Ben-oyte” and called WWE the “World Wrestling Association” at different times during the hearing.

– According to Jason Powell at Prowrestling.net, Rush said, “Steroid abuse in pro wrestling is probably worse than in any professional sport or amateur sport. And while I recognize that professional wrestling is not actually ‘a sport,’ it certainly requires a great deal of athletic talent. It is immensely popular with young people, including children, and many of the high-profile athletes and entertainers have fatally abused steroids and other drugs. The number of deaths in the professional wrestling ranks is startling to say the least. And the tragedy of Chris Benoit has been well documented. I want to ensure Mr. McMahon that… this subcommittee fully intends to deal with the illegal steroid abuse in professional wrestling. And we hope he will be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We intend to proceed deliberatively on this particular matter. We have options and Mr. McMahon should and must be willing to cooperate with the undertakings of this subcommittee and we expect no less.”

– Powell also reported that Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) commended Rush for calling out Vince McMahon, saying about McMahon: “Someone that flips his finger at this committee or at Congress deserves to be called out. On the other hand, we have a really esteemed panel and in my personal opinion Vince McMahon does not belong at this table with these people.”

– In an exclusive story, Prowrestling.net reported that both Bobby Lashley and Chris Masters told friends that they were contacted by Congress after their WWE releases. Word going around was they asked Masters if reports of HHH mocking his decrease in size were true (he did so on TV and according to “backstage observers” Powell says that he did so off-screen as well).

– Mainstream coverage of the hearings has been extensive, including by the Associated Press.

– Of course, this committee is different than ANOTHER Congressional committee — on Oversight and Government Reform — which Vince, Linda and Stephanie McMahon met with to answer questions last year. (This was noted both on Prowrestling.net, in a recent Newsday article and in the letter from WWE linked below.)

– In response to the above statements, WWE issued the following press release, which was also posted on corporate.wwe.com:

WWE to Committee: Unfair and Inaccurate

February 27, 2008, Stamford, Conn.–World Wrestling Entertainment issued a statement from Chairman Vince McMahon concerning comments made at today’s Congressional Hearing in Washington, DC.

Any suggestion made today by Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that I or my organization, WWE, have been uncooperative or that I have in any way “flipped [my] finger” at the Committee by not accepting its invitation to testify today is inaccurate and unfair. The WWE has provided over 3,000 pages of documents and cooperated with all requests from the Committee, as we have with similar requests from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The first and only response to our cooperation from the Committee on Energy and Commerce was an invitation to testify at today’s hearing sent to me by Congressman Rush on January 23, 2008. In that letter, he clearly states that I have the right, according to House rules, to be accompanied by my own counsel. I responded to the invitation to testify by declining for that very reason. My attorney of 20 years, Jerry McDevitt, is unavailable because he is currently representing another client on trial in Pittsburgh, PA (U.S. vs. Cyril Wecht). Since I sent my letter of declination 30 days ago, there had been no response from the Committee until today’s unfair and inaccurate comments made by members of the Committee. Despite this, as I pledged in my January 28, 2008 letter to the Committee, I remain willing to cooperate fully with the Committee’s inquiry.

WWE has provided two attachments that include WWE Letter of Declination to Chairman Rush and Chairman Rush’s Invitation to Vince McMahon to Testify.

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