Rightly or wrongly, professional wrestling has long been tarred with the brush of performance enhancing drugs.
Steroids were rife in professional wrestling during the 1980s when they were still legal, but the landscape changed the following decade with two significant moments. In 1990, anabolic steroids were added to the Controlled Substances Act, meaning possession of the drugs without a prescription was illegal. Then in 1994 came the WWE steroid trial after Vince McMahon had been indicted in federal court a year earlier. McMahon was accused of distributing steroids to his wrestlers, but the case against him fell apart and he was acquitted.
Testimony from Hulk Hogan proved crucial to McMahon’s defense. He told the court McMahon had never told him to take steroids, or tried to sell him the drugs. But his testimony still shone a damning spotlight over the industry with Hogan claiming 75 to 80 per cent of wrestlers used steroids back in the late 1970s, just after he started with the company.
That number has reduced significantly over the intervening four decades, but the use of performance enhancing drugs still remains. Since 1987, the WWE has run drug testing programs, and it now operates under the umbrella of its Wellness Policy, initiated shortly after the death of Eddie Guerrero.
Even still, steroid use remains a scourge on the business. Chris Benoit’s double murder suicide was linked to steroids in 2007. Later that year several WWE wrestlers were linked to a series of illegal pharmacy busts, which had been accused of providing wrestlers with performance enhancing drugs.
Some wrestlers blatantly used steroids throughout their career and were punished accordingly. Others dabbled in their younger years before realizing PEDs were a bad idea. Others still vehemently deny ever touching steroids, despite their perfectly chiseled physiques. We all know the likes of Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and McMahon used steroids, but here are 15 wrestlers you didn’t know used performance enhancing drugs.
15. William Regal
William Regal was one of the wrestlers named in a 2007 Sports Illustrated article as one of the WWE’s superstars not in compliance with the company’s wellness program. He admitted as much to an interview with The Guardian in 2007, saying that wrestling was a cosmetic business and that he’d used steroids in the past but was not on them any more. “My steroid use used to coincide with me getting my publicity photos taken,” he said. I started taking steroids to get a certain look. Remember, a lot of our fans want the superhero look.
14. Chavo Guerrero
The nephew of Eddie Guerrero and the man who discovered his uncle’s body in 2005 has also been found to have used performance enhancing drugs. Back in 2007, Chavo’s name was published as a client of Signature Pharmacy, the business which had provided Eddie Guerrero with the batch of steroids he took just prior to his death. Chavo’s drug use earned him a suspension from WWE for violating its recently established Wellness Policy. He received a kayfabe knee injury from Rey Mysterio to explain his absence during the suspension.
13. Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith’s steroid use might well have contributed to his death in 2002. The man who came to be known as the British Bulldog died of a heart attack while on holidays, and the coroner discovered he had an enlarged heart with microscopic scar tissue. The coroner surmised Smith’s heart problem was possibly from steroid abuse. It was also found Smith had steroids in his system when he died. Veteran trainer Bruce Hart said “Davey paid the price with steroid cocktails and human growth hormones.”
12. Dawn Marie
The use of performance enhancing drugs in WWE also infiltrated the diva ranks. In an interview after her retirement, Dawn Marie said she’d used steroids throughout her wrestling career. “I chose to take that shortcut,” she said. “Did Vince tell me to take that shortcut? No. Did WWE? No. Why did I do it? Because I thought that’s what I needed to do in order to keep up. There was no testing policy.” In the same interview Dawn Marie said she doesn’t believe steroid use in WWE is as prevalent as it once was, and that the drug testing policy is reducing the abuse of drugs like painkillers.
11. Eddie Guerrero
Sadly, Eddie Guerrero’s use of steroids showed everyone just how dangerous performance enhancing drugs can be. Guerrero died in 2005 from heart disease. Just 11 days prior he received performance enhancing drugs from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando. The drugs included the steroids testosterone and nandrolone, plus the estrogen blocker anastozole which is commonly taken by steroid abusing men to curtail the growth of breast tissue. The drugs themselves didn’t necessarily kill Guerrero, but unfortunately his death added to a worrying trend linking steroid abuse with heart disease.
10. Booker T
Booker T was suspended from the WWE in 2007 for violating its Wellness Policy after being linked to Signature Pharmacy like so many of his colleagues. Soon after he negotiated his release from the company, having maintained his innocence throughout the drug scandal. Booker T admits to having done steroids in the past, but maintains he was treated very unfairly by his former employers. “I never tested positive, it was a joke,” he said. “I’ve done steroids. They’re something I had to do. I’ve had three knee surgeries and the doctor put me on steroids. I had to take certain things. But as far as ordering things from the black market, I didn’t do that.”
Edge shocked fans in 2005 when admitting in a television interview that he had previously used performance enhancing drugs. In retrospect it’s not exactly surprising given how relatively slender Edge was when he started his wrestling career. His frame gradually grew along with his place in the pecking order until he eventually became a four time WWE champion and seven time World Heavyweight champion. Edge said he stopped taking performance enhancing drugs because he didn’t like the way they made him feel, and claimed it affected his performance in the ring.
8. The Rock
The Rock has used performance enhancing drugs, but not for a very long time…more than 25 years ago in fact. He admitted in a 2014 interview with fortune.com that he’d tried steroids when he was 18, before he started college, but also said he hadn’t touched them since, which means his granite like physique is completely natural, despite what you might read in posts from jealous body builders in online forums. “Training is my anchor,” The Rock said in the interview. “Sure, you get a lot of people out there who will suspect, and say s**t. They want to negate the hard work you put in.” The Rock eats five or six meals a day and is a big fan of protein shakes.
WCW legend Sting was an anabolic steroid user back in the 1980s, but hasn’t used performance enhancing drugs in more than 25 years. “Thankfully I got smart somehow or another in 1990 and stopped taking steroids,” he said in an interview with Muscle And Fitness. “A lot of the guys I ran with all those years continued to take steroids year after year – those guys are having their knees and hips replaced. I’m not saying everybody who gets their knees and hips replaced took steroids. I just noticed that the guys who did that were too big, too bulky, too heavy, and the body couldn’t handle it and it took it’s toll.
6. Lex Luger
The Total Package wasn’t totally natural. He once famously said “If you snort it, spray it, shoot it, inject it, I did it buddy” and that meant steroids along with alcohol, prescription pills and an assortment of illegal narcotics. But he does say he was already a big guy before he even knew what steroids were, 250 pounds in high school and bench pressing about twice that amount. Before he was a wrestler Luger was an offensive guard on the football field, and needed to gain weight to succeed in his position. A guy he knew from the gym introduced him to some little blue pills which Luger started taking to the tune of four a day, helping him gain 15 pounds in two months.
Once he quit football he pursued professional wrestling with his now bulging physique and says he initially kept a steroid regime of 12 weeks on, 12 weeks off. Fast forward to 2003 when Luger’s girlfriend Miss Elizabeth died from a drug overdose, and a police raid on Luger’s house turned up large quantities of anabolic steroids and growth hormones, although Luger maintains he didn’t know they were there at the time.
5. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is an interesting case when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs. He has admitted to steroid use in the past, but says it was to aid his recovery from a broken neck, an injury which significantly shortened both of his arms. During this time he failed a test which he says cost him to the tune of $125,000 financially, and badly damaged his reputation.
Despite his injuries, Angle often continued to wrestle for WWE and this was one of the main factors in his leaving the company, after which he joined TNA. In early 2007, Sports Illustrated said Angle’s name had been in the client database of a Florida company distributing performance enhancing drugs. Angle responded by saying he hadn’t improperly received prescriptions, and that any attempt to link him with performance enhancing drugs was without foundation.
4. Ken Shamrock
The World’s Most Dangerous Man enjoyed a decent run with the WWE in the late 1990s, but has done his best work in the mixed martial arts scene. He has admitted to steroid use, but claims he was never jacked up on steroids during an MMA fight. Despite that, he did test positive for three illegal anabolic steroids after beating Ross Clifton in February of 2009, and received a one year suspension. Shamrock has stated there needs to be a fresh approach taken to steroids in professional sport, one that involves more doctors so steroids can be used in a positive way.
In 2008, Shamrock’s adoptive brother Frank claimed that Ken had been doing steroids his whole life, and says that’s why he always crumbles before big MMA fights because he doesn’t have the security of steroids to give him confidence.
3. Randy Orton
Randy Orton was the most high profile wrestler named by Sports Illustrated in 2007 as having links to a pharmacy supplying performance enhancing drugs to WWE stars. Orton was alleged to have obtained the steroids stanozolol, nandrolone, oxandrolone and testosterone. Orton has suffered drug problems for lengthy stretches throughout his career, yet is a 12 time heavyweight champion in WWE and has proven himself one of the company’s best wrestlers in the post Attitude Era. Still it makes you wonder if his injury layoffs over the years were in fact suspensions.
2. Stone Cold
Not even the great Stone Cold was exempt from the lure of steroids during his ultra successful career in the WWE. He’s admitted himself to using steroids but it was perhaps ex wife Debra Marshall who first shed light on Stone Cold’s use of performance enhancing drugs. In 2002 Marshall phoned police to lodge a domestic violence complaint, which Stone Cold was later arrested for. In subsequent interviews, Marshall has put her ex husband’s behavior down to “roid rage” and said the use of these drugs occasionally caused him paranoia and panic attacks.
1. Bret Hart
Steroid use in the WWF was rampant in the 1980s, and Bret Hart admits he was right in it all. Interestingly he has said in the past that steroid use saved his career, because it helped him overcome a knee injury faster. It also helped him earn more money. “When I got to the WWF(E), everyone was doing it,” Hart said. If I didn’t take them I wouldn’t have a career. If you wanted to be a star you’d take steroids because everybody else is taking them. If you want to keep your job you’ve got to get competitive with everyone else.” Hart also said wrestlers of the mid 1980s were more concerned with how they looked cosmetically, as opposed to their technical ability in the ring.
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