Thursday, June 11, 2009

Batista, Master of the Torn Triceps ... And Bicep

WWE star Batista is out of action, yet again. This time it’s a torn bicep requiring surgery, with a recovery estimate of at least four months.

In November 2007 I cheekily headlined a blog item “Batista, Master of the Torn Triceps.” I noted that Batista on at least two occasions was stricken with that injury, which once upon a time didn’t occur but now is common among steroid users whose disproportionate muscle mass overloads tendons. (Pectoral, abdominal, and “lat” tears are three other such injuries.) In 2003 Batista was said to have torn a tricep during a match, then during rehab re-tore it “in a freak accident while jogging with his wife,” according to the WWE website. He explained to journalist Mike Mooneyham why his WWE-branded autobiography failed to broach the subject: “We were afraid of what people would read into it. I thought it would be a better discussion for people to have with myself rather than reading it [in a book].”


In the current Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer comments:

“Batista’s frequent injuries are hardly just bad luck. It’s a combination of age, physique, and likely a lot of muscle/tendon imbalances because he’s so big and muscular at his age. Torn biceps are not like torn triceps, torn lats and torn abs, which are usually the signs of steroid-related muscle injuries. The biceps, being a small muscle that bodybuilders train heavy, will tear more frequently on steroids, but non-steroid using lifters often have problems with biceps tears. He looked to be high risk when he returned carrying noticeably more muscle mass than when he left, even though he’s now 40. His new look raised a lot of eyebrows and questions including rumors that this injury was a cover reason for a suspension. However, we were able to confirm the injury was real and you don’t have surgery to cover a drug suspension.”

I told Meltzer that this comment could have been more clear. First, just because they announced the injury as a bicep doesn’t mean that it wasn’t actually triceps. (And, by the way, I’m not singling out wrestling here: Barry Bonds’ 1999 triceps injury was covered up as a bad elbow.) As for bicep injuries (unlike the ones cited above) afflicting non-steroid users as well as steroid users … well, OK, but in the context of Batista that’s a distinction without a difference, and enables the deniers and apologists.

“Obviously, it was steroid related,” Dave responded to me in an email, “but in fairness, guys not on steroids also tear biceps and not triceps.”

As serious wrestling fans know, WWE right now is scrambling over not just Batista but also a new raft of drug suspensions. One veteran of the 2007 Signature Pharmacy list, Edward Fatu (“Umaga”), was fired a few days ago without explanation. Today comes the explanation that he was fired for refusing to enter drug rehab. After the Signature fiasco, WWE supposedly gave notice to talent that the names of wellness policy violators would, prospectively, be released. But WWE either didn’t adhere to that promise in the case of Umaga, or has some convoluted rationalization of special circumstances that made it permissible not to release Umaga’s name in a timely fashion.

As soon as I can figure out what’s going on with this latest round of WWE drug PR, I’ll blog further about it.

Irv Muchnick

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