Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dr. Joseph Maroon Sighting in Excellent New Haven Register Article on WWE and Steroids

[posted 6/20/10 to]

Ed Stannard, metro editor of the New Haven Register, has produced one of the most valuable pieces of coverage in the Linda McMahon Senate campaign: an overview of her World Wrestling Entertainment’s history of steroid controversy.

See “Steroid stain lingers over Linda McMahon’s WWE,” Equally devastating is the front-page headline in the print edition in capital letters: JUICED.

The Register account is thorough and balanced, and the online version includes links to a lot of important primary-source material. Linda’s BusinessWeek whopper questioning the notion that steroids are bad is given legs.

And it will be open season on her spokesman Ed Patru’s bull about steroids not providing a competitive advantage in pro wrestling because it is scripted. Plenty of credible people can and will contradict them.

I was especially pleased to see that Stannard got WWE’s medical director, Dr. Joseph Maroon, on the record with what I believe are his first public quotes relating to that job since I started zeroing in on the deficiencies of his work and that of other company-contracted doctors — several of whom, like Maroon, are based at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

I suspect that when all is said and done, whether Linda McMahon wins or loses in November, a consequence of her candidacy will be more focused heat on the supposedly respectable politicians, doctors, media shills, and others who, by omission or commission, have enabled the McMahon family’s financial and political ascent.

In the case of Dr. Maroon — a neurologist whose work on concussions in the National Football League has been attacked as inadequate and ethically compromised — we now see that he simply parrots the WWE line about the distinction between anabolic steroid abuse and “testosterone replacement therapy.” The company first rolled this out following the 2007 toxicology report on wrestler Chris Benoit, who had murdered his wife and their son before killing himself. Of course, this was only after they had already allowed the public to believe that Benoit had passed his drug tests with flying colors, when in actuality he had off-the-charts quantities of testosterone excused by a get-out-of-jail-free-card “therapeutic use exemption.”

Here’s what Maroon told the Register:

Maroon said exemptions are given for prohibited drugs if they are administered under a doctor’s care, but that no exemptions are given for anabolic steroids, because they are illegal. Testosterone therapy, he points out, is not the same as steroids.

“There are certain substances, androgenic steroids, that there’s no exemption whatsoever,” Maroon said. “Those are banned substances and under no circumstances are they permitted.”

This is nonsense on androgens — literally and figuratively. The need for therapeutic use of testosterone is wildly exaggerated in wrestling and all of sports. To the extent that it is needed, it was almost always triggered by the original abuse of steroids, which caused the athlete’s endocrine system to malfunction. The net effect of all this is a giant loophole in WWE’s Wellness Policy.

Maroon’s failure to address that question with any nuance marks him as a co-opted professional rather than an independent expert. I expect that, sooner or later, critics will start holding these doctors accountable for lending their good names to WWE.

Irv Muchnick

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