When WWE first started drug-testing back in 1987, they were doing it in-house. However, after Vince McMahon’s steroid trial in 1991, there was a switch made to an independent testing policy looking for steroids and elevated testosterone levels. Overall, that policy worked pretty well, but in 1996 it was ended and no specific reason was given.
What followed was the Attitude Era and, by all accounts, lots of steroid abuse as well as other things. Which brings us to February 27th, 2006 when McMahon held a meeting with the WWE roster before a combined RAW/SmackDown event in Washington, D.C. and told them about the introduction of the new WWE Talent Wellness Program.
The WWE Wellness Policy isn’t something that most wrestling fans probably spend much time thinking about, but it does feel like this year the issue has come up a lot more than usual. And in fact, there have been more suspensions handed out due to wellness policy violations in 2016 than there had been since 2011.
But what exactly is the WWE Wellness Policy? Well, here are 6 things you need to know about it:
6. Happened After Eddie's Passing
The WWE Wellness Policy was added to pro wrestler contracts starting back in 2006, following the death of Eddie Guerrero.
Guerrero had been suffering from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and, in 2005, at the age young age of 38, his heart failed and he was found dead in his hotel room. Which is why part of the Wellness Policy states that wrestlers must pass cardiovascular stress tests.
The other part of this original version of the policy also had a substance abuse and drug testing program which, in a combined effort with the cardiovascular testing, was there to look after the long-term health of the wrestlers.
5. 50+ Suspensions
While 2016 has been a “big” year for suspensions due to Wellness Policy violations, it doesn’t compare to what happened the first couple years after the policy was introduced.
Obviously, many wrestlers weren’t quite ready to give up the pharmaceuticals they had been taking when there had been no testing going on as in 2007 there was a big expose done by Sports Illustrated implicating 14 WWE Superstars with illegally obtaining PEDs and other substances from an online pharmacy.
Overall, since the policy was introduced, there have been over 50 suspensions handed out to over 40 WWE Superstars.
4. How Many Tests Per Year?
All wrestlers are subject to random drug tests and they are subject to an average of four tests per year, with a minimum of 2. But that changes if you violate the policy.
When a WWE Superstar returns from a suspension, they are tested much more heavily to make sure they are no longer using whatever it is they were caught with, that earned them their suspension in the first place.
After returning from suspension, WWE talents are tested at least 12 times over the course of the the year following their return.
3. Randy Orton Rule
So, the Wellness Policy works on a classic three strikes and you’re out format. First suspension is 30 days, second violation gets you 60 days and your third violation gets you fired.
With that being the case, Randy Orton has two strikes on him (although he was never suspended for the Signature Pharmacy Scandal violation), which would mean one more strike and he would be out. Well, that is not something the WWE would want to see happen to one of their biggest names.
So, in 2013, they announced a new redemption clause to the Wellness Policy which states that someone with two strikes can apply to have one of their strikes removed (the WWE would have final decision on whether to remove the strike or not) if they stay clean and out of trouble for the 18 months following their second violation.
To be fair, there is no proof that this clause was initiated just to help out Randy Orton, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence which is why fans have deemed it the Randy Orton Rule.
2. No Booze
Okay, so that isn’t exactly true. Of course, WWE talent is allowed to drink. But what they aren’t allowed to do is drink alcohol within 12 hours of a WWE show.
According to the Policy: “WWE Talent are expected to be free of the influence of alcohol when performing for WWE. Accordingly, WWE Talent are prohibited from using or consuming alcohol at any time within a twelve hour period prior to any WWE event or WWE scheduled performance.”
Considering how grueling the schedules are for most of the Superstars and how often they are performing, it doesn’t leave much time for alcohol consumption.
1. Lesnar is Excluded
Well, actually it doesn’t apply to any WWE talents who aren’t considered full-time performers.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Brock Lesnar had failed a drug test with the UFC, but he still appeared on RAW and fought at SummerSlam. So, how was he able to do that? Well, The Beast Incarnate is a part-time performer and the policy only applies to talent who “regularly perform in-ring services as a professional sports entertainer.”
Over the last three years, a regular Superstar will have had, probably close to 200 matches, if not more. Whereas, in that same time frame, Lesnar wrestled in far less.