Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WWE Medical Team Bios — 5 Out of 8 Are from Pitt Med Center

The bios of the professionals on the World Wrestling Entertainment medical team are at the company website. See

Five of the eight men — they are all men — are from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I have previously mentioned three doctors: Joseph Maroon (neurology and neurosurgery — WWE’s medical director), Bryan Donohue (cardiology), and Vijay Bahl (endocrinology). The two other UPMC personnel with WWE affiliations are Mark Lovell (a Ph.D. in neuropsychology who is involved with the concussion testing) and Thomas Sisk (a sports medicine specialist).

I’m still waiting to hear from someone at UPMC about acquiring the full text of its ethics policy and interpreting its application to the relationship between these UPMC people and WWE.

Irv Muchnick

WWE Docs Governed by 'Private' Pitt Med Center Ethics Policy

This blog is exploring how a cluster of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center physicians came to join the medical staff of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company of Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

In my view, these three doctors – WWE medical director and neurologist Joseph Maroon, cardiologist Bryan Donohue, and endocrinologist Vijah Bahl – have done little except give political cover to this billion-dollar publicly traded corporation and to the McMahon family, which runs and profits from it.

At the moment, I am especially interested in Dr. Donohue, who is supposed to be supervising cardiovascular screening of WWE talent under a 2007 revision of the company Wellness Policy. In December 2009, six months after being fired by WWE for refusing to go to drug rehab, wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu died at age 36 of a massive coronary brought on by a toxic mix of prescription medications. Fatu’s autopsy showed that he had an enlarged heart.

In addition, Dr. Donohue’s overall portfolio of outside business interests may be a bit too entrepreneurial for my blood. Leveraging his medical credentials, he recently started a hype-happy company in the largely unregulated supplement industry.

In 2008 the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center published a new ethics policy, which has been widely praised for controlling the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies on the clinical decisions of doctors.

However, when I viewed the text of the policy online, I noticed it included links to general University of Pittsburgh guidelines for faculty conflicts of interest — and those links did not work.

Yesterday I spoke to Frank Raczkiewicz, a UPMC media relations director, about getting access to the blocked documents. Raczkiewicz referred me to Dr. Barbara Barnes, the UPMC vice president who authored the ethics policy.

Dr. Barnes told me that the links within the UPMC ethics policy to the University of Pittsburgh policies were designed not to be publicly accessible because the latter are “internal” documents.

In our phone conversation yesterday, Dr. Barnes did not have time to get into the substance of my reporting on the relationship between UPMC and WWE. I emailed her with my contact information but did not hear back.

Later yesterday I sent around to all the principals an email with the following text:


Ed Patru / Linda McMahon for Senate campaign, media relations

Robert Zimmerman / World Wrestling Entertainment, media relations

Bryan C. Donohue, M.D.

Joseph C. Maroon, M.D.

Barbara E. Barnes, M.D. / University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Vice President of Continuing Medical Education, Contracts and Grants and Intellectual Property

Frank Raczkiewicz / University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, media relations

I am about to post to my blog a report headlined, “Umaga Autopsy Turns Focus to Linda McMahon’s WWE Cardio Program and Docs.” The post — to which I invite all of your comments (see my contact information below) — includes the following points:

* The autopsy report on wrestler Eddie “Umaga” Fatu — a WWE performer until six months before his December 2009 death from a heart attack caused by prescription drug toxicity — showed that he had an enlarged heart. This raises questions about the cardiovascular screening under the WWE Wellness Policy. Dr. Maroon is WWE’s medical director. Dr. Donohue is the consulting cardiologist.

* Dr. Maroon, Dr. Donohue, and a third member of the WWE medical team, Dr. Vijay Bahl, have UPMC practices. This raises questions about the UPMC ethics policy that took effect in February 2008.

* The UPMC ethics policy seems primarily aimed at the issue of pharmaceutical companies’ inducements to doctors, which can compromise patient care. However, there are also general conflict-of-interest issues, as well as specific ones involving physicians’ relationships with the non-regulated supplement industry. Dr. Donohue is a co-founder of a supplement company, which he aggressively promotes in media appearances. Dr. Maroon has written a book touting the same supplement and is cited prominently on its website.

* Dr. Maroon’s professional associations in pro football — as a doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers and as a member of the National Football League’s concussion policy committee — are also noted. I point out the case of Richard Rydze, yet another UPMC physician who was dropped by the Steelers after he was found to have purchased huge quantities of growth hormone from the Internet gray-market dealer Signature Pharmacy. I also review my previously published reports that Dr. Maroon’s NFL concussion work has been criticized as too passive, and that he and WWE last year gave ESPN misleading information about his access to the postmortem brain studies of WWE performer Chris Benoit, who committed double murder/suicide in 2007.

Irvin Muchnick

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WNPR’s John Dankosky Blogs About Having Linda McMahon on ‘Where We Live’

“McMahon on Steroids, PG Programming, Health Care, and Emanuel”

Oh, Chair Shots Are OK -- Just Not to the Head

Regarding the previous post, a helpful fan points out to your humble blogger, “WWE policy only bans chair shots to the head. I think Hart diligently avoided hits to the head.”

Well, you got me there. I can see the steam emitting from the nostrils of Jerry S. McDevitt, Esq. Sorry.

Of course, Vince McMahon told CNN in 2007 that chair shots to the head had been banned, but the chairman’s words didn’t seem to get codified in iron-clad company “policy” until January of this year. Maybe in the interim wrestlers were diligently trying, but failing, to land solid soap-opera blows to the back.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon’s 64-Year-Old Husband Takes 14 Chair Shots at WrestleMania

Presumably with the input of its crack medical team from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment recently banned “chair shots,” whereby wrestlers bonk each other with metal folding chairs.

But when you gotta do it, you gotta do it. To blow off his dozen-year-long feud with Bret “The Hitman” Hart at Sunday’s WrestleMania in Arizona, Linda’s husband Vince found himself on the receiving end of more than a dozen chair shots. (I counted 14. Until the WWE intellectual property vigilantes take it down, the video can be viewed at

The evil “Mr. McMahon” got his, and the fans went home happy.

Evidently role model Vince is no more subject to the chair shot ban than he is to steroid-testing under the WWE “Wellness Policy.” When asked about the latter by the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in December 2007, he explained, “I’m 62 [years old], not 26.”

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Audio from Connecticut Public Radio’s ‘Where We Live’

The podcast of Linda McMahon’s appearance this morning on WNPR (Connecticut Public Radio), Where We Live with host John Dankosky, is at

At around the 12-minute mark, Dankosky plays a clip of his interview with me last week, and McMahon responds.

Where We Live plans to air Dankosky’s entire 18-minute interview with me on a program in the near future.

Irv Muchnick

Umaga Autopsy Turns Focus to Linda McMahon’s WWE Cardio Program and Docs

The death last December of Eddie “Umaga” Fatu opened a new frontier in the scrutiny of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wellness Policy under its former chief executive, and now U.S. Senate candidate, Linda McMahon.

Fatu died at 36 of a familiar toxic cocktail of prescription painkillers and mood drugs. But, not surprisingly, the autopsy also showed that he had an enlarged heart. That Fatu, in addition, had abused anabolic steroids was a given. He had been suspended by WWE in 2007 after prosecutors of the Internet steroid/Human Growth Hormone dealer Signature Pharmacy found him among the more than a dozen pro wrestlers on the customer list. In June 2009, six months before he died, WWE dismissed Fatu – not because of a drug-testing “strike” per se, but because he refused to go into rehab.

(The autopsy report of the Harris County, Texas, coroner’s office can be viewed at

While questions about WWE drug testing are well known, it is time to focus on the company’s cardiovascular screening, which was among the changes to the Wellness Policy promulgated in the wake of the 2007 Chris Benoit murder-suicide.

The cardio program was launched with great fanfare and one heavily publicized success story: the word that it helped wrestler Alvin “MVP” Burke catch and treat his previously unknown case of Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which causes a fast heartbeat. According to some sources, two of WWE’s top stars have more classic heart conditions, and at least one takes medication to control it.

So what was the deal with Umaga? Given his history, it is extremely unlikely that his enlarged heart would not have turned up in routine company screening prior to his death.

Specifically, the Fatu scenario casts doubt on both the efficacy and the ethics of Dr. Bryan Donohue, WWE’s consulting cardiologist, as well as the whole team of doctors, centered at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), who administer the Wellness Policy.

Donohue’s WWE contract is only one of his outside business interests. He’s also “co-founder, chief medical advisor, and director” of a supplement company, Vinomis Laboratories, which markets a product derived from Resveratrol (red wine abstract) per “exclusive patented Harvard Medical School science.” Vinomis hypes Resveratrol as something of a fountain of youth.

In February 2008 UPMC made effective a new ethics policy guiding the potential conflicts of interests of its doctors. Most of the policy was aimed at the associations of physicians who promote certain prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs that are marketed by large pharmaceutical companies, whose products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In my reading, it is not clear how much the UPMC guidelines address the issue of doctors’ conflicts in encouraging the use of supplements, which are independent of Big Pharma.

Regardless, Donohue’s explicit equity interest in Vinomis products is an eyebrow raiser. Supplement marketing was deregulated in the U.S. in 1994, and the often unrigorous research claims and poorly vetted side effects that followed were exposed in the disastrous experience of the now-banned ephedra.

What I find equally disturbing is that Donohue is one of several UPMC physicians on WWE’s medical team. His colleague Joseph Maroon, a prominent neurologist, is the WWE medical director. Maroon (also the surgeon for retired wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino) is a team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a member of the National Football League’s concussion policy committee.

I do not know the exact nature of Maroon’s association with Vinomis Laboratories. But Maroon is the author of a new book, The Longevity Factor, which touts Resveratrol and is cited on the company website.

Pro football fans are aware that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a long history, dating back to their 1970s Super Bowl championship teams, of being accused of harboring and condoning steroid abuse – and that, too, includes the taint of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In 2007 another team doctor with a UPMC practice, internist Richard Rydze, was fired after he turned up on the Signature Pharmacy customer list; Rydze had used a credit card to make a $150,000 purchase of growth hormone, which he claimed was for helping patients heal from injuries.

Rydze and Maroon also were both members – and the latter is an officer – of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a nonprofit claiming 22,000-plus members in more than 100 countries.

In recent months this blog has aired concerns about Maroon’s work on concussions, the core rationale for his hire by WWE. Though Maroon does have NFL bona fides that WWE is fond of citing, it’s worth pointing out the flip side: that the league has come under fire for dragging its feet in this area. The NFL recently shook up its concussion committee (which still includes Maroon) after a Congressional investigation last year accused pro football brass of denying or downplaying research on long-term brain trauma.

Nor did Maroon cover himself in glory when he stood silent while WWE told ESPN that it had been refused access to Dr. Bennet Omalu’s studies of Chris Benoit’s brain. (Omalu considers Benoit a prime exhibit of the phenomenon the doctor calls CTE, for “chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”) The truth is that Maroon did meet with Omalu at Dr. Julian Bailes’ West Virginia brain research institute in October 2008, six months after Maroon’s appointment as WWE medical director, and according to Omalu, he was shown Benoit study materials.

Returning for a moment to the familiar topic of steroid abuse, WWE also has a consultancy with Dr. Vijay Bahl, yet another UPMC clinician. Bahl was hired only after another endocrinologist with sterling credentials in the sports anti-doping world – Southwestern Medical School’s Richard Auchus – was bypassed. Auchus had been invited by WWE to submit a proposal for a new and tougher post-Benoit therapeutic use exemption (TUE) program for testosterone prescribed under the Wellness Policy. After sending his recommendations to WWE, Auchus never heard back.

I have invited the Linda McMahon campaign, WWE, Dr. Donahue, Dr. Maroon, and UPMC to comment on this report.

Last week the McMahon’s spokesman, Ed Patru, issued a statement in response to more general media inquiries prompted by coverage of my Connecticut media and bookstore tour, and focused on the WWE Wellness Policy and the pandemic of drug abuse and death in pro wrestling. The campaign attacked my “for-profit” book and rejected the notion that McMahon, as CEO of WWE, was “responsible for the personal choices of every person ever associated with WWE.” In her appearance this morning on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live, McMahon offered more boilerplate talking points about her corporation’s good works and “evolving” practices.

As this politician and her billion-dollar enterprise spin away, are the renowned University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and its doctors proud of what they are enabling?

Irv Muchnick

Monday, March 29, 2010

Irvin Muchnick's Connecticut Tour Media Roundup

This list will be updated as more links become available.


Tuesday, March 23

WTNH / Channel 8, New Haven, “WWE and McMahon ‘slammed’ in book,” chief political correspondent Mark Davis,

Fox Connecticut / Channel 61, Hartford, “Wrestling Critic Speaks Out About WWE Empire, Vince and Linda McMahon,”,0,6730751.story


Thursday, March 25

WFSB, Channel 3, Hartford, report by Susan Raff


Wednesday, March 24

WATR / 1320, Waterbury, Larry Rifkin, Talk of the Town


Friday, March 26

WXLM, News/Talk 104.7, New London, Lee Elci, Out of My Mind,

WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio, John Dankosky, “Writer Takes on McMahon, Steroids and the WWE,” (text and audio of two-minute news report; entire 18-minute interview to air later on Dankosky’s program Where We Live)


Wednesday, March 24

Hartford Courant, Daniela Altimari, “WWE Critic Takes Shots at U.S. Senate Candidate Linda McMahon,”,0,3186201.story

New Haven Advocate, John Stoehr, “Senator Piledriver: What Her Opponents Should Focus On,”


Friday, March 26

Stamford Advocate (and other Hearst newspapers), Brian Lockhart, “Author promotes murder-suicide book in Stamford,”


Sunday, March 28

Hartford Courant, Colin McEnroe, “Cocktail of Death About Right For Soap Opera,”,0,5629336.column


Wednesday, March 24

CT Confidential, Hartford Courant, Rick Green, “WWE RED ALERT! The Desperate Sportswriter Arrives in CT,”


Thursday, March 25

Capitol Watch, Hartford Courant, Christopher Keating, “Blogger Irvin Muchnick’s FOI Clas With The Stamford Police Regarding Death Of WWE’s Chris Benoit,”

Capitol Watch, Hartford Courant, Christopher Keating, “Democrat Daniel Malloy Supported GOP’s Linda McMahon For State Board Of Education,”


Friday, March 26

Political Capitol, Stamford Advocate, Brian Lockhart, “Who’s going to phone Dan McCabe first today? McMahon or Simmons?”,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stamford Advocate’s Coverage of Borders Book Signing

Priceless stuff from Brian Lockhart:

“Author promotes wrestler murder-suicide book in Stamford”


And the companion piece on Lockhart’s Political Capitol blog:

“Who’s going to phone Dan McCabe first today? McMahon or Simmons?”

Muchnick Media Leading Up to Tonight’s Event at Borders in Stamford

* live interview with Lee Elci, News/Talk 104.7 FM, New London (audio up soon on the podcast page)

* taped interview with Susan Raff, political reporter for WFSB (Channel 3), Hartford — story on this evening’s News at 5.

* taped interview with John Dankosky, news director of Connecticut Public Radio — a snippet on tonight’s 5 p.m. news roundup, the whole 18-minute interview later as a segment of WNPR’s “Where We Live.”

Courant’s Capitol Watch Blog Reviews ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ Story

On the day of my event at Borders Book Shop in Stamford for CHRIS & NANCY (tonight, Thursday, 7-9 p.m.), the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch has become the first Connecticut media outlet to delve into my book’s coverage of the strange case of the “Benoit Wikipedia hacker” — the local college kid who posted online news of Nancy Benoit’s death 14 hours before the world knew that World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit had committed double murder/suicide in Fayette County, Georgia.

See Courant reporter Christopher Keating’s post, “Blogger Irvin Muchnick’s FOI Clash With The Stamford Police Regarding Death Of WWE’s Chris Benoit,”

I’ll be discussing all this further tonight at Borders.

And I invite Stamford Police Captains Richard Conklin and Tom Wuennemann — as well as the former mayor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Dan Malloy — to join me.

Irvin Muchnick

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Muchnick Interviewed by New Haven Advocate

“Senator Piledriver: What Her Opponents Should Focus On”

by John Stoehr

New Haven Advocate, March 24

Great Moments in Email, Part 5

From Dona Berry:

“My son works in indy pro wrestling and we promote shows as well. i am 200% for Linda McMahon and see you as just a disgruntle [sic] former WWE employee [?] with an ax to grind.”

Rick Green, the Desperate Connecticut Columnist/Blogger, Strikes Again

“WWE RED ALERT! The Desperate Sportswriter Arrives in CT”

Muchnick Featured in Hartford Courant

“WWE Critic Takes Shots at U.S. Senate Candidate Linda McMahon”

by Daniela Altimari

Hartford Courant, March 24,0,6277794.story

Muchnick's WTNH Interview on YouTube

Irvin Muchnick’s interview with WTNH chief political correspondent Mark Davis — the lead story on the Tuesday, March 23, News Channel 8 at 6 newscast in New Haven, Connecticut — is viewable at the WrestlingBabylon Channel on YouTube at this link:

In the story, Muchnick discusses the accountability of U.S. Senate candidate and former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive Linda McMahon for the pandemic of death in the pro wrestling industry. (Small correction to the WTNH piece: Muchnick’s uncle, not father, was the famous pro wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick.)

Muchnick has events for his book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, at the Borders bookstore in Stamford on Thursday, March 25, and at the Borders in Farmington on Saturday, March 27.

Muchnick Interviewed on Channel 8 News in New Haven

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, is interviewed on this evening’s six o’clock newscast on WTNH, Channel 8 in New Haven. Hartford bureau chief Mark Davis talks to Muchnick about the impact of his reporting on the U.S. Senate candidate of Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Channel 8 news segments can be accessed post-broadcast at Follow this blog and Muchnick’s Twitter feed (@irvmuch) for details.

The updated schedule of Muchnick’s Connecticut tour bookings can be viewed at

Hearst Blogs Borders Events

Thanks to Magdalene Perez of Hearst Connecticut newspapers for the nice post at the BookEnds blog:

“Wrestling’s ‘Cocktail of Death’ author tours”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Linda McMahon and the ‘Fatty Arbuckle Defense’

Kevin “Don’t Call Linda McMahon My Mouthpiece” Rennie has started tweaking his sychopancy for the U.S. Senate candidacy of the co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

A couple of months ago, Rennie analogized McMahon’s turns running pro wrestling to Ronald Reagan’s goofball role in Bedtime for Bonzo.

In his column in today’s Hartford Courant (“Rising Dissatisfaction Is Wind in McMahon’s Sails,”,0,4028903.column), Rennie goes a little more passive with the business background of the woman whose company amassed the fortune bankrolling her $50 million campaign while “independent contractor” performers dropped dead by the bushel, and from time to time menaced others.

“Popular culture has always been a bit coarser than political leaders like to acknowledge,” Rennie writes.

Call it the Fatty Arbuckle defense. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a silent film star whose career was ruined after an actress died at his 1921 Labor Day weekend party, and he was accused of raping and accidentally killing her.

One part of Linda McMahon’s narrative – a kind of companion piece to the tear-jerker about her and husband Vince’s 1970s bankruptcy – is the cocaine-fueled “party atmosphere” of the 1980s. Such excesses are all in the past, you see. That past presumably includes the 1983 death, with a more-than-Arbucklian fact base, of WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s girlfriend. See “Muchnick Flashback: ‘Superstar Snuka and the Death of a Groupie,’”

As for the “all in the past” part, see my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. Chris and Nancy Benoit were the ninth and tenth of 21 pro wrestling personalities who died before age 50 in the year 2007 alone. (Their seven-year-old son Daniel doesn’t count.)

See you all at Border’s in Stamford on Thursday night and at Border’s in Farmington on Saturday afternoon.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, March 19, 2010

How NOT to Get a Gig With WWE's Crack Medical Team

I haven’t yet told you about World Wrestling Entertainment’s consulting endocrinologist on matters related to “therapeutic use exemptions” (TUE’s) for drug-testing under the company Wellness Policy. He is Dr. Vijay Bahl, yet another distinguished physician from the Shadyside campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

This post is mostly about what you shouldn’t do if you want to get hired as a medical consultant for WWE. But one thing that it seems you should do is have a practice out of the Shadyside campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. So do Joseph Maroon and Bryan Donohue – respectively, WWE’s medical director and cardiovascular monitoring consultant, in addition to being fellow hucksters for a supplement marketer. (See previous posts today.)

The importance of the TUE consultant became clear after the June 2007 double murder/suicide of Chris Benoit. Initially, WWE said Benoit had passed his drug tests with flying colors. Funny, but his postmortem toxicology study showed that he had a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1: off the charts.

Well, it turned out that Benoit hadn’t exactly “passed” his drug tests. It was just that he didn’t have “conclusion-positives” because he had a TUE, a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. TUE’s were part of a “testosterone replacement program” for wrestlers like Benoit who needed therapeutic doses of testosterone after years or decades of steroid abuse had maimed the ability of their own endocrine systems to produce it in sufficient quantities.

Dr. Tracy Ray, a WWE consultant, was grilled about all this in his September 2007 interview by the staff of Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (See the transcript at Ray agreed that “there was shadiness in almost every case that I’ve reviewed.”

Ray himself is not an endocrinologist, but an associate of Dr. James Andrews’ sports medicine clinic in Alabama. Andrews has performed surgery to repair injuries sustained by many famous athletes and WWE performers. (And many of those injuries – especially things like torn pectorals and triceps – are new to the medical literature and caused by how steroids cause overloaded muscle groups to tax the tendons holding them together.)

WWE sought an endocrinologist. Above all, it needed to make it look as though it was doing something serious about TUE’s. The company reached out to perhaps the leading expert in the field: Dr. Richard Auchus of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Auchus had helped design the TUE protocols for the Olympic movement’s World Anti-Doping Agency.

Auchus wrote a memo proposing a plan for WWE. He wasn’t fooling around. If he were to get involved, Auchus said, the emphasis would have to be on getting the talent off steroids, not enabling the continued abuse of them. He said a testosterone replacement program should be analogous to giving heroin addicts methodone to help wean them off the drug.

In his own interview with the Waxman Committee staff in December 2007, McMahon said a relationship with Auchus was under consideration.

But Auchus never heard back. The next year WWE quietly hired Dr. Bahl.

After all, you can't go wrong with those Shadyside bloodlines.

Irv Muchnick

NFL Says WWE's Medical Director Still on Concussion Committee

I called the office of National Football League media relations guy Greg Aiello to find out what I could about the tenure and status of Dr. Joseph Maroon on the NFL policy committee on concussions.

Readers here know that the NFL is shaking up its concussion team after taking a public pasting in Congressional hearings and the media. This is pertinent because Dr. Maroon – a team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the surgeon of former pro wrestling great Bruno Sammartino – has another side job as World Wrestling Entertainment’s medical director. Indeed, Maroon, a man of many hats, also finds time to serve as a huckster for an “energy and longevity” supplement.

Greg Aiello’s assistant asked me for the nature of my business. Then she said she would check “to see if Greg is in.”

After nearly five minutes on hold, the assistant came back on the line.

“Greg says that Dr. Maroon is on the committee and has been for several years,” she said.

I asked for some more specifics, including the composition of the entire committee. Aiello’s assistant took my email address. I’m not holding my breath.

Irv Muchnick

Watch the Cardiovascular Health Consultant for Linda McMahon’s WWE Pimp an Unregulated Supplement on YouTube

As I have been reporting for the last 12 hours, the December autopsy report on World Wrestling Entertainment performer Eddie “Umaga” Fatu shows that he had the kind of enlarged heart frequently found among steroid abusers.

This takes scrutiny of WWE’s so-called “Wellness Program” to a new level. It is one thing for Vince and Linda McMahon to talk in circles about a drug-testing regime they dropped in 1996 and picked up ten years later, only after the high-profile death of their star Eddie Guerrero. Fatu, for example, had a previous “strike” and suspension for having been exposed on the customer list of Internet drug dealer Signature Pharmacy. But that doesn’t mean he ever flunked a WWE drug test. Fatu’s cause of death, a toxic cocktail of prescription drugs, were not part of steroid testing. And he probably had legitimate prescriptions for those drugs. Yadda yadda yadda.

Heart monitoring is a whole different kettle of fish. WWE has been claiming it has a specific program for screening the cardiovascular health of its talent. When the program was first instituted, the company even hyped catching and treating one fairly obscure wrestler’s unusual heart condition.

So where was the heart monitoring for Eddie Fatu? And who was in charge of it?

The answer to the second question is Dr. Bryan Donohue of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (Indeed, from the “Shadyside” campus – I love that touch.)

Like Dr. Joseph Maroon, another University of Pittsburgh doc and WWE medical consultant, Donohue is mixed up in some fashion with Vinomis Laboratories, marketer of the “miracle” supplement Vindure: pure resveratrol from natural Japanese Knotweed, mixed with Vinomis Red Wine Grape extract, and all based on “exclusive Harvard Medical School patented science”! (See “Where Does WWE’s ‘Medical Director’ Fit in Shakeup of NFL’s Concussion Committee,”

Right after Eddie Fatu died, a Pittsburgh lifestyle magazine called Whirl ran a hype article on this remarkable new homegrown product, and television station KDKA did a gushy interview about it with Dr. Donohue.

See for yourself at

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon 'Has Considered' Having Vince Answer Steroid Questions

Embedded in today’s story on Linda McMahon at ( is this important passage:

In response to a question, she acknowledged that her campaign has considered making a public presentation on steroids, possibly making her husband and other WWE officials and doctors available for questions.

“It’s something we talk about internally,” McMahon said. “Should we have that kind of a presentation or continue referring a lot of these kinds of questions to WWE, who are now in a better position to respond to it?”

“A public presentation” would be worthless. Making Vince McMahon and others available for questions is essential.

The questions could start with the autopsy I posted last night of Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, 36, who died of a heart attack in December. We already knew that the coroner had determined the cause of death to be a toxic combination of prescription drugs. What the autopsy showed was that Fatu also had an enlarged heart, a common byproduct of steroid abuse.

So in addition to all the previous questions about Fatu’s drug tests and their application per the World Wrestling Entertainment wellness policy, there are questions about the heart monitoring program the company has claimed credit for instituting.

Irv Muchnick

Eddie "Umaga" Fatu Autopsy: 406 Pounds, Enlarged Heart

I have uploaded a facsimile of the Houston coroner’s autopsy report on Edward S. “Umaga” Fatu, the ex-World Wrestling Entertainment performer who died of a heart attack in December at age 36. See

The experts may find things I miss in my first layman’s reading. What jumps out at me is that Fatu – who was six feet, six inches tall and weighed 406 pounds at death – had hypertensive cardiovascular disease and “hypertrophy”: an enlarged heart. (I earlier broke the story that the cause of death was a toxic cocktail of prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety drugs.)

The WWE website says the following about the “Cardiosvascular and Monitoring” component of the company Wellness Program:

“All WWE talent undergo an extensive cardiovascular stress test before they are offered a contract by WWE, and subsequently tested at least biennially while under contract (more frequently as and when circumstances warrant). Dr. Bryan Donohue, Division Chief of Cardiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Hospital, and Senior Partner at Donohue Cardiology Associates, administers WWE’s cardiovascular testing and monitoring program.”

Fatu was fired by WWE in June 2009 for refusing to go to drug rehab. In the Wellness Policy’s “three strikes” progression of discipline for drug violations, he had one strike, for having been a customer of the gray-market Internet dealer Signature Pharmacy.

At the time of his death, he was negotiating his return to WWE.

It is an understatement to say that the circumstances of Fatu’s death raise anew questions about both the efficacy and the transparency of a program often cited by Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE.

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Does WWE's 'Medical Director' Fit in Shakeup of NFL's Concussion Committee?

The New York Times‘ Alan Schwarz – who has done some of the best work on the House Judiciary Committee hearings that spurred the National Football League to huddle up about its policies on concussions — reports that the NFL “further distanced itself from its tumultuous past” on this issue “by selecting two new co-chairmen for a renamed policy committee and accepting the resignation of one of that group’s most prominent members.”

See “N.F.L. Picks New Chairmen for Panel on Concussions,”

I am especially interested in where Dr. Joseph Maroon, a Pittsburgh Steelers team physician and an NFL consultant in this area, emerges from the announced shakeup. In 2008 Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment hired Maroon as its medical director, with the hype that he was installing the same concussion-management systems spearheaded and used by him in pro football.

However, the more profound summary of Maroon’s profile may be that he was a leader on the NFL team that dragged its feet for years on mounting scientific evidence of the understated long-term dangers of concussions — and he has proceeded to help imbue the WWE with the same corporate culture and practices.

I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from the way Maroon enabled WWE’s lie to ESPN last December about a supposedly fruitless effort to get access to Dr. Bennet Omalu’s postmortem studies of Chris Benoit’s brain. More than a year earlier, and six months into his WWE tenure, Maroon had attended a meeting with Omalu and other experts in which the Benoit brain slides were shown. (See “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” December 14,, and “Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE Lies to ESPN (Part 2),” December 16,

I also can’t draw any other conclusion from the way Maroon has apparently stood around collecting paychecks from WWE while it ran its December pay-per-view show, which was marketed around “TLC” — the appeal of wrestlers bashing each other with “tables, ladders, and chairs.” As Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant pointed out, WWE a month later conveniently amended its mysterious and ever-evolving internal “policy” to ban chair shots. And as James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch has noted, WWE simply moved on to other brain-damage media with the February “Elimination Chamber” show.

Hey, Mr. Medical Director, how about doing some medical directin’?

Maybe one reason Dr. Maroon isn’t more focused is that he’s been busy with a new project: promoting a supplement called resveratrol, which is supposed to reduce risk of heart disease and to serve as something of an all-purpose fountain of energy and youth. Resveratrol is not yet sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration, but Maroon authored a book touting it called The Longevity Factor.

Now Maroon is featured at the website of a company, Vinomis Laboratories (, which markets a pill called Vindure 900. “Live Longer and Healthier with Resveratrol and Red Wine Grape Extracts.” No word there on whether Maroon is the company’s “medical director.”

Personally, I drink a glass of grape juice every morning. Larry King said this was good for me in a radio commercial, and judging from the number of wives King has run through, he should know.

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Muchnick Flashback: 'Superstar Snuka and the Death of a Groupie'

The article below – commissioned but not published by New York’s Village Voice in 1992 – became Chapter 9 of my 2007 book WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal.

In 1996 Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka would be inducted into what is now the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. At age 66, he still makes periodic appearances for Vince and Linda McMahon’s WWE, which in 2002 gave him a “lifetime achievement award” at a show at Madison Square Garden. Last year Snuka had a cameo role at WrestleMania.

Wayne Snyder, the Lehigh County (Pennsylvania) deputy coroner and then coroner, who told me he “immediately suspected foul play” in the death of Nancy Argentino, retired in 2004.

William Platt, the district attorney at the time of the incident, is now president judge of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.

Buddy Rogers, the wrestling great quoted in the story below, died in 1992, shortly after this story was written, at 71.

In June 2008, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt exchanged emails with me about the research for CHRIS & NANCY, my book on the 2007 Chris Benoit murder-suicide. In his June 16, 2008, email, McDevitt wrote in part, “[Y]our insinuation that Mr. McMahon in some unspecified way kept authorities from charging Jimmy Snuka for murder in 1983 is an odious lie.”



by Irvin Muchnick

For Vince McMahon, the Hundred Million Dollar Man, wrestler Jimmy (Superfly) Snuka made for a challenging tag-team partner. The World Wrestling Federation’s second-most-popular star in the early eighties, Snuka was an illiterate immigrant from Fiji, prone to bouts with the law that threatened his green card, and a drug abuser who often missed bookings. During a Middle East tour in the summer of 1985, fellow wrestlers say, customs officials in Kuwait caught him with controlled substances taped to his body, and he was allowed to leave the country only after some fancy footwork.

But Snuka’s near-Midnight Express experience in the Persian Gulf was child’s play compared to what happened on May 10, 1983. That night, after finishing his last match at the WWF TV taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he returned to Room 427 of the George Washington Motor Lodge in nearby Whitehall to find his girlfriend of nearly a year, Nancy Argentino, gasping for air. Two hours later, this 23-year-old wrestling fan – who’d worked as a dentist’s assistant in Brooklyn and dropped out of Brooklyn Community College to travel with Snuka – was pronounced dead at Allentown Sacred Heart Medical Center of “undetermined craniocerebral injuries.”

“Upon viewing the body and speaking to the pathologist, I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney,” Lehigh County Coroner Wayne Snyder told me on a recent trip to Allentown. In ’83, Snyder was deputy to Coroner Robert Weir.

Yet no charges were filed in the case, no coroner’s inquest was held, and no evidence was presented to a grand jury. Officially the case is still open – meaning Argentino’s death was never ruled either an accident or a homicide – though the original two-month-long investigation has been inactive for nine years. Under Pennsylvania’s unusually broad exemptions from freedom of information laws, the Whitehall Township Police Department has so far refused my requests for access to the file.

Of particular interest would be two documents: the autopsy and the transcript of the interrogation of Snuka immediately thereafter. One local official involved in the investigation, as well as one of the Argentino family’s lawyers, told me the autopsy showed marks on the victim other than the fractured skull. And former Whitehall police supervisor of detectives Al Fitzinger remembered that the forensic pathologist, Dr. Isadore Mihalakis, confronted Snuka to ask him why he’d waited so long before calling an ambulance. Gerald Procanyn, the current supervisor of detectives, who worked on the case nine years ago, maintained that Snuka cooperated fully with investigators after being informed of his right to have a lawyer present, and was accompanied only by McMahon. Another investigator, however, saw things differently; he said Snuka invoked his naïve jungle-boy wrestler’s gimmick as a way of playing dumb. “I’ve seen that trick before,” the investigator said. “He was letting McMahon act as his mouthpiece.”

Another curious circumstance was the presence at the interrogation of William Platt, the county district attorney. According to experts, chief prosecutors rarely interview suspects, especially in early stages of investigations, for the obvious reason that they may become witnesses and hence have to recuse themselves from handling the subsequent trials.

Detective Procanyn gave me the following summary of Snuka’s story: On the afternoon before she died, Snuka and his girlfriend were driving his purple Lincoln Continental from Connecticut to Allentown for the WWF taping. They’d been drinking, and they stopped by the side of the road – the spot was never determined, but perhaps it was near the intersection of Routes 22 and 33 – to relieve their bladders. In the process, Argentino slipped on mossy ground near a guard rail and struck the back of her head. Thinking nothing of it, she proceeded to drive the car the rest of the way to the motel (Snuka didn’t have a driver’s license) and, after they checked in, picked up take-out food at the nearby City View Diner. Snuka had no idea she was in any kind of distress until he returned late that night from the matches at the Agricultural Hall. Procanyn said Snuka’s story never wavered, and no contradictory evidence was found.

Curiously, contemporary news coverage, such as the front page of the next day’s Allentown Morning Call, made no mention of a scenario of peeing by the roadside; it focused, instead, on the question of whether Argentino fell or was pushed in the motel room. Nine years later the reporter, Tim Blangger, vividly recalled that at one point in his interview of Procanyn, the detective grabbed him by the shoulders in a speculative reenactment of how Snuka might have shoved the woman more strongly than he intended.

Procacyn also claimed to have no knowledge of any subsequent action by the Argentino family, except for a few communications between a lawyer and D.A. Platt over settling the funeral bill. In fact, the Argentinos commissioned two separate private investigations, and it’s difficult to believe that Procanyn was unaware of them. The first investigator, New York lawyer Richard Cushing, traveled to Allentown, conducted extensive interviews, and aggressively demanded access to medical records and other files. “It was a very peculiar situation,” Cushing told me. “I came away feeling Snuka should have been indicted. The police and the D.A. felt otherwise. The D.A. seemed like a nice enough person who wanted to do nothing. There was fear, I think, on two counts: fear of the amount of money the World Wrestling Federation had, and physical fear of the size of these people.”

Even so, Cushing declined to represent the family in a wrongful-death civil suit against Snuka. The lawyer cited the fact that Snuka and Argentino weren’t married, that they didn’t have children, and that she wasn’t working, which would make it difficult to establish loss of consortium. “Moreover, Vince McMahon made it clear to me that her reputation would be besmirched. As a lawyer, I had to determine if a contingency [fee] was in order; my business decision, not my moral judgment, was no. The family wasn’t pleased. They had a typical working-class family’s anger that justice wasn’t done.”

Through the generosity of Nancy Argentino’s father’s boss, the family then retained a Park Avenue law firm. The report filed by its private investigator shows that Snuka was as creative outside the ring as he was inside it. To the Whitehall police officer who responded to the first emergency call, Snuka said “he and Nancy were fooling around outside the motel room door when he inadvertently pushed Nancy and she fell striking her head.” An emergency room nurse heard him state that “they were very tired and they got into an argument resulting in an accidental pushing incident. Ms. Argentino fell back and hit her head.” In the official police interrogation, Snuka first floated the peed-on-the-roadside theory. Finally, in a meeting with the hospital chaplain, he said he and Argentino had been stopped by the side of the road and had a lovers’ quarrel: “He accidentally shoved Ms. Argentino who then fell backwards hitting her head on the pavement. They then arrived at the motel and went to bed. The next morning Ms. Argentino complained that she was ill and stayed in bed…. When he came home from the taping, he observed that Ms. Argentino was clearly in bad shape.”

In 1985 the Argentinos obtained a $500,000 default judgment against Snuka in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The family never collected a dime; Snuka’s lawyers withdrew from the case, stating that they hadn’t been paid, and Snuka filed an affidavit claiming he was broke and unemployed and owed the IRS $75,000 in back taxes. Since ’83, the 49-year-old Snuka has been in and out of rehab centers and has wrestled off and on both in Japan and throughout this country. His original WWF stint extended two and a half years past Argentino’s death; his most recent ended earlier this year. According to the wrestling grapevine, he’s now trying to promote independent shows in, of all places, Salt Lake City, but my efforts to track him down there were unsuccessful.

Proving negligence, of course, is different than proving involuntary manslaughter or murder. But critics of the criminal investigation find fishy the failure of the police to examine seriously Snuka’s history of drug abuse and violence against women. Former wrestling great Buddy Rogers, who’d been hired by McMahon to serve as Snuka’s TV “manager” and to get him to important matches on time, said he stopped driving with the Superfly after he brazenly snorted coke when they were in the car together. “Jimmy could be a sweet person, but on that stuff he was totally uncontrollable,” said Rogers, who was also Snuka’s neighbor on Coles Mill Road in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Snuka’s wife, with whom he had four children, befriended Rodgers’ wife. “Jimmy used to beat the shit out of that woman,” Rogers said. “She would show up at our house, bruised and battered. But she couldn’t leave him – he had her hooked on the same junk he was using.”

Nancy Argentino’s younger sister remembered once being threatened by Snuka when they were alone at the family’s home in Flatbush. “I could kick you and put my hands around your throat and nobody would know,” he allegedly said. After Nancy’s death, family members said, they received a series of phone calls from a woman who identified herself as a former Snuka girlfriend who’d tried to warn Nancy away from him. Snuka, said the woman, had once broken her ribs, and had a thing about pushing women back against walls.

Finally, there was the incident involving Snuka and Argentino at a Howard Johnson’s in Salina, N.Y., outside Syracuse, just three months before Allentown. The motel owner, hearing noise from their room, called the police, who found Snuka and Argentino running naked down the hallway. It took eight deputy sheriffs and a police dog to subdue Snuka. Argentino sustained a bruise of her right thumb. Snuka pleaded guilty to violent felony assault with intent to cause injury, received a conditional discharge on counts of third-degree assault, harassment, and obstruction of a government official, and donated $1,500 to a deputy sheriffs’ survivors’ fund. Whitehall police later decided this was all the result of “a nervous desk clerk,” Detective Procanyn told me.

* * *

According to attorney Cushing, McMahon made a remark at one point in their discussions that was at once insightful and chilling. “Look, I’m in the garbage business,” the promoter said. “If you think I’m going to be hurt by the revelation that one of my wrestlers is really a violent individual, you’re mistaken.”

Six months after Nancy Argentino died, the Village Voice ran a prescient article entitled “Mat Madness” by the late columnist Arthur Bell, weather vane of the lower-Manhattan gay-arts demimonde. After attending a Madison Square Garden show headlined by a bout between Superfly Snuka and The Magnificent Muraco, Bell, who knew next to nothing about wrestling, commented on the spectacle’s graphic references to bodily functions and on its barely sublimated undercurrents of sexual dominance and sadomasochism. “Take my word,” Bell declared, “by the end of 1984 wrestling will be the most popular sport in New York since mugging.” He concluded with a vignette at the Garden stage exit, where a swarm of fans, led by a woman named Bea from West Orange, converged to taunt the wrestlers as they emerged in their street clothes.

“Hey, Superfly,” Bea shouted to Snuka. “You goddam fuckin’ murderer. When are you gonna kill another girl?”

WWE Bans Chair Shots for Safety … Except When They’re Absolutely Essential to the Plot

While I was busy cutting and pasting into the last post the email tirade of Congressman Bobby Rush’s frazzled communications director, the Hartford Courant’s Daniela Altimari was busy pressing her examination of World Wrestling Entertainment concussion practices.

In her Capitol Watch blog post “Tables, ladders and chairs,”, Altimari questions how WWE’s December pay-per-view show, based almost entirely on the gimmick of wrestlers beating up on each other with weapons, could possibly square with language on the corporate “wellness policy” page stating that “the intentional use of a folding metal chair to ’strike’ an opponent in the head” is prohibited.

Ever at the ready with a propaganda filibuster, WWE PR guy Robert Zimmerman explained that the formal chair-shot ban was introduced a month after the “TLC” event. Zimmerman also maintained that “no performer suffered a concussion” at TLC.

However, James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch told Altimari that WWE’s Sheamus did sustain a concussion at the most recent, and equally dangerous, “Elimination Chamber” pay-per-view in February. “Instead of wrestlers hitting each other with chairs,” Caldwell said, “wrestlers’ heads were bouncing off chain wiring and ‘bullet proof’ glass-paneled pods.”

As I have reported on this blog, another wrestler at “Elimination Chamber,” The Undertaker, sustained first- and second-degree burns in a pyrotechnic accident — an injury that happy-face Zimmerman equated at the time to a “sunburn.”

Irv Muchnick

Congressman Bobby Rush’s Communications Director Flips Out

I’m used to bizarre emails, but Sharon Jenkins, communications director for Congressman Bobby Rush, has set a new standard for responses to my work from public officials.

I just got an email from Jenkins, with the subject line “Misleading Outreach on a CTCP Issue,” in which she says, in part, “With this writing, please do not contact our office again.”

The proximate cause of Jenkins’ tantrum may be my post earlier today, “Congressman Bobby Rush Confirms That Investigations of WWE Are Dead.” Her stated beef, however, is with a report about my post at the website of Pro Wrestling Torch.

Because no second-hand characterization could do justice to this outburst as effectively as the primary record, I am simply reproducing below my entire exchange with Jenkins.

Irv Muchnick


[sent March 8]

FAX to Sharon Jenkins

Communications Director

Congressman Bobby Rush


Dear Ms. Jenkins:

I am seeking information about a matter before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

In February 2008 the subcommittee held hearings on steroid policies in sports. Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, was invited but did not intend. At the hearing, Congressman Rush expressed his disappointment and said that the subcommittee would continue to pursue the issue. What is the update on this situation?

Thank you for your attention. I will follow up by phone. My own contact information is below, as are links to my book and blog.

Irvin Muchnick


Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush

Monday, March 8, 2010 1:41 PM

From: Sharon Jenkins

To: Irvin Muchnick

Good afternoon, Mr. Muchnick. I received your voice mail message but, for now, our fax machine is down. Please e-mail me your request and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

Sharon Jenkins

Communications Director

Office of U. S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (1st-Illinois)


Re: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush

Monday, March 8, 2010 1:46 PM

From: Irvin Muchnick

To: Sharon Jenkins

Thank you for getting back to me. Here it is:

[repeat text of fax]


RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 8:22 AM

From: Sharon Jenkins

To: Irvin Muchnick

Good morning. I’ve got this and have forwarded it to our subcommittee counsel for a response. I’ll get back to you ASAP.


RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 8:34 AM
From: Irvin Muchnick
To: Sharon Jenkins

Thank you, Ms. Jenkins.


Fw: RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:59 AM
From: Irvin Muchnick
To: Sharon Jenkins

Gently following up again here. Thanks.


Fw: RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Monday, March 15, 2010 11:32 AM
From: Irvin Muchnick

Reinforcing the voicemail message I just left. Thanks.


RE: RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 8:10 AM
From: Sharon Jenkins
To: Irvin Muchnick

Thank you for your patience, Mr. Muchnick, but the issue you raised occurred in the last session of Congress and we wanted to check details. Briefly stated, other than continued review by subcommittee staff of the monitoring and enforcement practices of WWE and other professional sports leagues, there are no plans, at this time, for further hearings or congressional actions on this subject.

Thank you for your interest and concern on this issue. Take care.

Sharon Jenkins


RE: RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 9:38 AM
From: Irvin Muchnick
To: Sharon Jenkins

Ms. Jenkins,

Thank you for getting back to me.

Irv Muchnick


RE: RE: Voice Mail Follow-up re Congressman Rush
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:32 PM
From: Sharon Jenkins
To: Irvin Muchnick

You’re welcome. Take care.


Misleading Outreach on a CTCP Issue
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:44 PM
From: Sharon Jenkins
To: Irvin Muchnick

Mr. Muchnick, every now and then “reporters” like you reach out for less than honest reasons. The statement I shared with you was accurate; however, the context in which you and or this organization you’re affiliated with (which you DID NOT DISCLOSE) used the information in a totally different context. With this writing, please do not contact our office again. Your overtures for public information should be submitted to the full subcommittee.

I hope the “cc” listed above gets this information in a timely manner. I’m unaware of this publication but, trusting that it’s reputable, I believe they’ll be interested in your less than professional outreach. Context matters and, at this point, should actions be taken in the future, we’ll alert appropriate sources.

Take care.

Sharon Jenkins

Communications Director

Office of U. S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (1st-Illinois)

2416 Rayburn H.O.B.

Washington, D.C. 20515


202-226-0333 Fax

WWE News: Congress not following up on WWE oversight, Linda McMahon skipping concussion hearing

Mar 16, 2010 – 12:37:06 PM

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By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor

– The office of Congressman Bobby Rush, who helped Congress’s investigation of WWE’s drug-testing policy and history of health issues in pro wrestling in 2008, says there will be no further follow-up by Congressional committees on recommendations for independent government oversight.

“Briefly stated, other than continued review by subcommittee staff of the monitoring and enforcement practices of WWE and other professional sports leagues, there are no plans, at this time, for further hearings or congressional actions on this subject,” said a spokesman to wrestling author Irv Muchnick.


Re: Misleading Outreach on a CTCP Issue
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:02 PM
From: Irvin Muchnick
To: Sharon Jenkins

Ms. Jenkins:

What an odd and inappropriate message you have sent me.

I will publish our complete email exchange on my blog, and readers will be able to make up their own minds whether I was in any way misleading in my request for a piece of routine public information from your office. I am an independent journalist, blogger, and author; my links are in the signature of my emails.

You conclusion that I am “affiliated” with Pro Wrestling Torch is wrong. That is a news organization, and it appears to have picked up the report on my blog. If you have a beef with PW Torch, kindly take it up with them directly.

Obviously, you can communicate with me in the future, or not, as you wish.

Irvin Muchnick

Drugs in D.C. Are Dead, But There Are Always Concussions in Connecticut

Daniela Altimari blogs at the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch that World Wrestling Entertainment’s Linda McMahon would be a welcome witness at hearings of the Connecticut State Senate’s Education Committee on a proposed bill to protect high school athletes from what research is showing to be long-term damage from untreated sports concussions.

This is a great illustration of how McMahon’s campaign for U.S. Senate can provide important new scrutiny of the sleazy practices of the publicly traded company that has made her so rich she can afford to throw $50 million of her fortune at a first-time race for elective office. The Altimari post, “Student athletes, head injuries, and the WWE,” is at

Confirming that the co-chair of the committee, Tom Gaffey, thinks McMahon’s testimony would be enlightening, Altimari writes: “You might think the woman whose company created what her spokesman calls ‘a very thorough wellness policy’ that includes a detailed protocol for preventing and treating head injuries might have something to add to Wednesday’s discussion — especially since she also serves on the state Board of Education, which will work with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Connecticut Association of Schools to make sure coaches have the training they need to implement the bill’s requirements.”

McMahon spokesman Ed Patru told Altimari, “She cannot say specifically what her position is on this until she first has a chance to look at the bill and preferably read it.... [T]hat said, she supports efforts to keep high school athletes safe.”

Irv Muchnick

Congressman Bobby Rush Confirms That Investigations of WWE Are Dead

The office of Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, has finally confirmed to me that he is doing nothing to back up his bluster at a February 26, 2008, hearing of the subcommittee, which Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment blew off.

Two years ago, Rush — playing kleig-light catch-up to Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings on steroids in sports — summoned the heads of all the major professional sports leagues and their talent unions. Rush also invited McMahon, who declined; WWE’s outside lawyer and Washington lobbyist, Jerry McDevitt, was busy at a trial in Pennsylvania.

Rush said, “I am exceptionally and extremely disappointed.... The number of deaths in the professional wrestling ranks is startling to say the least. The tragedy of Chris Benoit has been well documented. I want to assure Mr. McMahon that this committee 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.”

Vince and Linda McMahon already had been interviewed behind closed doors by Waxman’s Oversight Committee staff. Those transcripts were not released until January 2009, when Waxman was moving from Oversight to the chair of the House Energy Committee (which happens to be the parent of Rush’s subcommittee).

In his recent investigation for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut, reporter Brian Lockhart reviewed Waxman’s request to the White House National Office of Drug Control Policy to follow up on the matter, and how no one in Washington did.

Today Rush’s communications director, Sharon Jenkins, emailed me: “Briefly stated, other than continued review by subcommittee staff of the monitoring and enforcement practices of WWE and other professional sports leagues, there are no plans, at this time, for further hearings or congressional actions on this subject.”

Briefly stated, Lockhart’s conclusion that the federal legislative and executive branches “dropped the ball” is looking pretty accurate.

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Muchnick in Live Interview Today on Hardcore Sports Radio

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed live today, Tuesday, March 16, by host Sarah Meehan on Under_Score on Hardcore Sports Radio. The interview is at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time (10:30 a.m. Pacific). Hardcore Sports Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 98, also streams programming both live and in podcast archives at

Mr. Linda McMahon, Sexy Bastard

In its second investigative coup in three Sundays, Hearst newspapers in Connecticut has revealed that the 47-foot yacht owned by Linda and Vince McMahon, and moored in Boca Raton, Florida, is called Sexy Bitch.

Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, notes that “they never mention the name Vince McMahon, only the yacht was owned by ‘Linda McMahon’s husband.’ That’s probably driving Vince more crazy that the reporter didn’t know he was someone of significance than the fact his yacht is this week’s political joke.”

Suzan Bibisi’s husband could not be reached for comment.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kate Snow Leaves ABC ... But Not for Linda McMahon's Campaign

When I saw the headline that Kate Snow was leaving her post as anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America weekend edition, my first thought was, “Not another hire by Linda McMahon!” Snow, after all, had done one of the first inane national media pieces on McMahon’s Senate candidacy; the interview transcript posted on the ABC News website omitted the single perfunctory question about her responsibility for the pandemic of drugs and death in her World Wrestling Entertainment. (See “Linda McMahon and the Anatomy of a Network TV News Dud,” January 12,

But it turns out that Snow is going to NBC, where she will be a correspondent on Dateline.

NBC is already something of a house network for the McMahon family. With producer Dick Ebersol, now the president of NBC Sports, the old World Wrestling Federation got its first network TV slot in the 1980s with Saturday Night’s Main Event. (Ebersol will be at the WrestleMania festivities in Arizona in two weeks to help induct baseball broadcaster Bob Uecker into the WWE Hall of Fame. How does Bob Uecker qualify for the WWE Hall of Fame? Don’t ask.)

Of course, NBC and Ebersol also partnered with WWE and the McMahons on the disastrous XFL football league in 2001.

And NBC is the home of WWE’s Tribute to the Troops holiday specials from Asia.

In the spring of 2008, Dateline was working on an investigative piece about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide the year before. Numerous sources (I was not among them) were told to ready themselves for interviews. Over Memorial Day weekend, someone in high places at NBC pulled the plug on the story.

I wouldn’t bet that reviving it will be Kate Snow’s first assignment there.

Irv Muchnick

Jodi Latina Is No Lackey -- She's a Paid Linda McMahon Flack!

The things you learn too late ...

Not living in Connecticut, I didn’t know who Jodi Latina was. I hope she can forgive me for how I impugned her by referring to her as a Linda McMahon lackey. In fact, Latina is a former television news reporter who left that job last fall to join the communications office of Team McMahon! So Jodi was just doing her job when she used her Twitter feed to disagree with my observation that Linda should learn the error of Meg Whitman’s ways in California and stop hiding from unfiltered media.

Let me make it up to you, Ms. Latina. Please email me at so I can give you my phone number and apologize personally....

Irv Muchnick

P.S.: Meg Whitman / Linda McMahion

In the previous post on this blog, I discuss the criticism of California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s radio/TV commercial-oriented campaign, her admission that she made “a mistake” in avoiding reporters this week at a public event — and how all this relates to Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

On Twitter, someone with the handle @jodilatina8 responded, “FYI Linda McMahon has appeared on all the local tv political talk shows in CT and has spoken to dozens of print reporters & radio.”

It is indisputable that @jodilatina8 has a more attractive Twitter avatar than your humble blogger. However, my argument about the heavily managed Linda McMahon candidacy is far superior.

See, for example, “Linda McMahon Ducks Questions About Ducking Questions,”

Also: “How to Handle Linda McMahon’s Handlers,”

Also: “Reporter Confirms Linda McMahon’s ‘Press Wrangler’ Is State Party Chief’s Wife,”

Irv Muchnick

Meg Whitman, in California, Models Better Behavior for Linda McMahon in Connecticut

I live in California. The lead story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle is headlined “Whitman lays out an agenda of reform.” The subhead: “She admits it was ‘a mistake’ to avoid political reporters.”

Meg Whitman, of course, is the billionaire former CEO of eBay who is spending scores of millions of dollars in her campaign for the California governorship.

The money paragraph of the story (viewable at “She made the comments after facing blistering criticism from Republicans and others about her refusal to take questions from reporters invited to a campaign event Tuesday in Oakland. On Friday, she called that ‘a mistake’ and promised more interviews and access.”

Linda McMahon, the centimillionaire former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who is spending scores of millions of dollars in her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, likewise has been criticized for hiding behind packaged events and handlers.

It would behoove McMahon to take the step Whitman has taken. And it would serve the public for political reporters in Connecticut to press her to do so.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, March 12, 2010

Full Story on WWE, Bret Hart, and Lloyd's of London

Keith Harris posted a comment on our item yesterday, “Did Bret Hart Get Lloyd’s of London Insurance for WrestleMania?”

At Cageside Seats, the blog he writes along with David Bixenspan, Harris gives the complete background in a post headlined “Lloyd’s of London causes WWE headaches over Bret Hart coming out of retirement.” See

Harris explains that this is actually an old insurance policy of Hart’s. In fact, he had to sue Lloyd’s to collect on a claim for his career-ending concussion, which led to his stroke and disability. (Hart was awarded $800,000 in damages in 2005.)

And here, against all odds, is Hart back with WWE and headlining WrestleMania. Wrestling, Harris observes ruefully, “is a strange business where even a badly concussed, stroke sufferer who was screwed over by the biggest wrestling promoter in the world can’t be guaranteed to stay retired.”

I still want to see who plays the Lloyd’s claims adjuster in the TV commercial.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Coverage Getting Tougher, But Media Still Need to Flip Their Priorities

A story in today’s Manchester Journal Inquirer continues the recent trend of more substantive coverage of Linda McMahon’s U.S. Senate bid. The beginning of the piece by Don Michak, “McMahon Vows To Spend More, Force Primary If She Doesn’t Win Party’s Nomination,” is at, but the full text is available only to paid subscribers.

The article zeroes in on two areas of controversy for McMahon: the TV programming content of World Wrestling Entertainment, and the lax drug-testing and other health and safety standards of the pro wrestling industry, which her billion-dollar publicly traded company largely controls.

When Connecticut journalists start consistently reversing the order of priority of the questions in those two areas, my outsider’s mission will have been accomplished.

To the Journal Inquirer reporter, McMahon “dismissed what has been perhaps the complaint most frequently made against her by her opponent — that as the top executive at WWE, she authorized and personally profited from its questionable programming.” I agree that this is “perhaps the complaint most frequently made” — by the media as well as by Republican opponent Rob Simmons — but I hope that won’t always be the case.

McMahon also acknowledged that “some WWE wrestlers had used steroids, but insisted the company’s anti-drug policy is effective. Steroids can provide a competitive advantage to athletes, she said, but no such advantage is required in WWE programming in which characterization, costuming, and the ’soap opera’ script is paramount.”

Let’s start putting some more Truth Squad resources into that whopper, folks. People are dying, and it isn’t funny.

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Linda McMahon Strongly Denies That She Is a Kevin Rennie Mouthpiece

Hearst newspapers in Connecticut will have a story in Sunday editions highlighting the wealth of major gubernatorial and senatorial candidates this year.

On his blog yesterday, Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, a former Republican state legislator, runs down the 16-item questionnaire Hearst gave each of the candidates. See “Will Anyone Answer, ‘The Bada Bing’?”,

And in truth and on their face, about 14 of the 16 questions seem pretty silly. No. 10 is “How much do you pay for a haircut/hairstyling? Where do you go?” Rennie’s blog commenter “George” logs in with this: “Sounds like a questionnaire Robin Leach might use to qualify guests for his TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Sadly, this is what passes for journalism in CT today.”

On his own blog today, Hearst reporter Brian Lockhart gives this upcoming high-minded exercise a little context. See “Complain all you want. You know you’re going to read about the candidates’ $$$,” He points out that “those candidates with money in particular want to downplay their wealth, even as they’re paradoxically relying on their fortunes to run for office during a particularly populist, ‘let’s burn those high-paid, big-bonus-earning suits at the stake!’ period in this country’s history.”

As always, I believe readers are capable of processing all this for themselves in a couple of days. Two weeks ago Lockhart was the first in-state reporter to break away meaningfully from the YouTube journalism on Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign, via an investigation of the stalled and forgotten Congressional investigations of World Wrestling Entertainment drug-testing policies in the wake of the 2007 Chris Benoit double murder/suicide. So healready put some, ahem, “political capitol” in the bank, if this piece turns out to be not deemed worthy of passing around Monday morning at high school civics classes throughout the Nutmeg State.

Mischief-maker that I am, however, I can’t help focusing on something else altogether. On his blog, Lockhart notes that “someone” leaked the questions (to Rennie). “My money’s on a disgruntled candidate” as the source of that leak, he adds parenthetically.

Hmmm ... Kevin Rennie ... Phony populist narratives of the mega-rich ...

I’ve got it! Warren Mosler, you old fox!

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Did Bret Hart Get Lloyd’s of London Insurance for WrestleMania?

In 1997 Bret Hart, once upon a time the McMahon family’s “world champion,” got double-crossed by Vince McMahon. In 1999 Bret’s youngest brother, Owen Hart, was killed during a stunt entrance when his harness broke and he crashed into the ring from the arena rafters. In 2002 Bret, by now retired from wrestling because of the aftereffects of a concussion in a botched skit with another promotion, had a stroke that partially paralyzed him; later that year Davey Boy Smith, the ex-husband of Bret’s sister, suffered a fatal steroid-induced heart attack.

Yet in 2007, after Chris Benoit – Hart’s fellow Western Canadian and one of his many close friends in the industry to die young – murdered his wife and child, then took his own life, Bret was on the front lines with all the rest of the industry’s deniers. Steroids had nothing to do with it, he insisted on Nancy Grace. I gently dissented in the segment that became the lead clip on my YouTube channel, (Our exchange came before Benoit’s post-mortem toxicology report showed he had a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1.)

As half the world already knows, and as most of the other half should learn over the next 18 days, Bret Hart has returned to World Wrestling Entertainment for a “street fight” at WrestleMania against the wicked “Mr. McMahon.”

But, wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez reports, apparently not without first taking out something no wrestler gets directly from Vince and Linda McMahon’s WWE: an insurance policy.

According to Alvarez, the company got wind of Hart’s move just before his comeback appearance on the January 4 edition of Raw to start building his new feud with Vince.

Potentially the insurer, Lloyd's of London, could have dictated changes in the choreography of the event people will be watching on pay-per-view for the suggested retail price of $54.95. Everyone from vice president Stephanie McMahon Levesque, Vince and Linda’s daughter, on down was “really sweating” over this creative interference, Alvarez writes in the new issue of his Figure Four Weekly newsletter.

He adds: “The plan all along was to do Bret vs. Vince, and then for a few weeks there they seemed to be teasing a tag match instead. It may have been a case, and this part is speculation, that they found out about the Lloyd’s deal and had to initially change plans and go from Bret vs. Vince to Bret & Cena vs. Vince & Batista, but then a few weeks later they ‘bought out the problem’ or at least made some sort of agreement with Lloyd’s and that’s why they then backed away from the tag and went back to promoting the singles match.”

Meanwhile, a loose organization of independent wrestlers is advertising a new group health insurance plan. I don’t believe they are working through Lloyd’s of London.

I have no idea how this scenario fits into would-be Senator Linda McMahon’s stance on health-care reform. In her January appearance on Face the State, Linda said her notion of reform includes personal accountability by everyone for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Irv Muchnick

Latest Drugs 'n' Wrestling News

Jesse Haggard has become the final defendant to plead guilty in the Applied Pharmacy steroid/growth hormone case in Mobile, Alabama. See

Haggard was an associate of Arizona-based physician Dr. David Wilbert, who prescribed drugs for a number of pro wrestlers, according to Sports Illustrated in 2007. Haggard himself was a doctor of neuropathic medicine, an alternative discipline recognized in Arizona and a few other states.

Thanks to Anthony Roberts, “the CNN of the steroid world,” for the new info. Roberts blogs at

The historical problem of “mark” doctors who prescribe promiscuously for wrestlers is told in Chapter 12 of my book CHRIS & NANCY. Chris Benoit’s doctor, Phil Astin, is himself now serving a ten-year federal sentence. The first physician to get convicted for such practices, George Zahorian, pushed steroids to wrestlers in the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) in the 1980s. See “Linda McMahon’s Husband Vince Fought the Law, and the Law Lost (Part 1 — Dr. George Zahorian),” December 21, 2009,

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon’s WWE Programming Is Rated PG (Plenty Gall)

In case anyone missed the point of Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green’s recent blog post headlined “McMahon is WWE and WWE is McMahon,” The Washington Times has combed World Wrestling Entertainment’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing to find that WWE was a subcontractor in the production of some of Linda McMahon’s TV campaign commercials. See today’s story, “Senate hopeful has WWE in her corner,”

At this point we need an investigation of possible deeper corporate support by WWE of the campaign of its co-founder and former chief executive. Last year’s change of Raw and SmackDown from TV-14, the erstwhile parental guidance rating, to TV-PG is looking pretty dubious.

I myself don’t care about the national nanny ratings system – I don’t even have cable. But the voters of Connecticut need to know everything they can about the extreme synergy of the brands “WWE” and “Linda McMahon, French teacher manqué.” They also need to understand that the concept of truth in advertising is foreign to both.

A couple of weeks ago this blog created a stir by reporting that the first show of WWE’s new No. 3 brand, NXT, on the cable Syfy channel, was listed TV-14. For once, the company didn’t attack my journalism, but acknowledged that there had been a one-time “miscommunication” by Syfy in providing information to program guides. Coincidentally, a WWE performer for the distinguished act Cryme Tyme told a fan website the very next day, “We’re not PG.” For my takeout on this episode, see “WWE, TV-PG, and TV-14,”

Two nights ago, during his real-time coverage of USA cable’s Raw for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter website, Bryan Alvarez wrote:

So did you read the thing in the daily update about the host of Good Day Oregon being told that he couldn’t drop an elbow on a doll during a segment with MVP because kids may try it at home and get hurt, or some such nonsense? Well, Criss Angel just did a magic trick where he had Santino put a KNIFE, a fucking KNIFE under one of four cups, and then said he was going to use his magic to crush the three empty ones and avoid being stabbed. Not making this up. He didn’t get stabbed, but the fact that this aired on the supposed PG kid-friendly Raw was astonishing.

Irv Muchnick

Still Waiting on Congressman Bobby Rush

Continuing our story on what Congressman Bobby Rush has to say about the aftermath of his promise to follow through on his February 2008 vow to pursue a probe of World Wrestling Entertainment drug policies via his House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection (see

Yesterday Rush’s communications director, Sharon Jenkins, sent me an email in which she said the office fax machine was down. She asked me to resend my query on email and she would get back to me.

I sent Jenkins the text of the Monday morning fax, and this afternoon I followed up with a voicemail message. So far, no response.

Irv Muchnick

Dan Malloy on WWE

Following up on the previous post here, a reader reminds us that this is what former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy, now running for governor, told Brian Lockhart of Hearst two months ago:

Malloy ... compared the WWE to the circus, but was “certainly happy to have them in Stamford.... They add to the vitality. People eat in restaurants, live in your houses, pay your taxes,” Malloy said. “Do I like their form of entertainment? No. Do I think it, from time to time, bordered on obscene or promoted behaviors that I don’t think were particularly healthy? Sure, it did all those things. I don’t think we have to celebrate the company or their executives or elect them senators, but let’s not be Pollyanna about it. People are entitled to be entertained. They choose their entertainment.”

Here, I think, Malloy makes perfect sense.

Irv Muchnick

Four Questions for Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy

Tomorrow Dan Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, will formally become a candidate for governor of Connecticut. My questions to him:

1. Last year you supported Linda McMahon when Governor Jodi Rell nominated her for the state Board of Education. Unlike Susan Bysiewicz, also a member of the opposite political party who backed McMahon for the job, you do not appear to have received campaign contributions from the McMahon family. So I assume that you simply felt it was your duty to protect the back of one of the long-time leading corporate citizens of your city. Or is the explanation that you didn’t yet know that Linda had lied about an academic degree in her bio?

2. In 2007 the Stamford Police Department, either intentionally or accidentally, bungled the investigation of the local college student who posted on Wikipedia a snippet about the death of Nancy Benoit — 14 hours before the double murder/suicide of World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit was discovered in Georgia. See “Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ (Part 4 — Conclusion),” When I investigated a year later, Captain Richard Conklin — consistently the city’s highest-paid employee thanks to accrued overtime — tried to mislead me, and the police and the city corporate counsel played a shell game with me as I tried to acquire the video of the police interrogation of the kid, whose name was Matthew T. Greenberg. (With the help of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, I eventually succeeded.) Why?

3. I have never said that the Stamford police and the City of Stamford were covering up for WWE. But by the way ... were they?

4. You have not responded to my postcard invitation to the book signing for CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, at the Borders in Stamford on Thursday, March 25. That hurts my feelings. Also, though I don’t vote in Connecticut, I have a lot of friends there — most of them very large. Please come!

Irv Muchnick

So That’s What the WWE Flack Was Talking About

World Wrestling Entertainment PR guy Robert Zimmerman began his statement last Thursday, “In light of a recent article and editorial column which appeared in the Connecticut-based Hearst newspapers ...”

I had speculated that the reference to an “editorial column” might be a dig at a second news story by Brian Lockhart. In retrospect, obviously, Zimmerman was talking about the editorial in the Greenwich Time. See previous post.

Irv Muchnick