June 26, 2007
WWE Refutes Benoit "Roid Rage" Claims
World Wrestling Entertainment slams steroid speculation in double murder-suicide of wrestling champ Chris Benoit and his family.
By Shirley Brady
World Wrestling Entertainment has issued a statement responding to media speculation that steroid abuse, commonly referred to as "roid rage," was a factor in the double homicide-suicide involving WWE wrestling star Chris Benoit, his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel.
WWE stated that the cause of death, asphyxiation, and physical findings at Benoit's home by local "authorities indicate deliberation, not rage." WWE also stated that the wrestling champion had tested negative "on the last test done on Benoit by WWE's independently administered drug testing program, done on April 10, 2007."
Prescription anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home, but authorities have not released toxicological reports indicating whether he had steroids in his body at the time of the murders. WWE's statement expressing the company's concern (and outrage at press and fan speculation) and ongoing monitoring of the investigation, is noted below.
WWE has decided to cancel its Canadian tour, scheduled from July 14-17, "out of respect for the surviving members of the Benoit family and the city of Edmonton." Benoit, dubbed "The Canadian Crippler" on the wrestling circuit, was born in Montreal and lived with his family in Fayetteville, GA, about 20 miles south of Atlanta, where their bodies were discovered at the family home Monday by local police.
Benoit's wife Nancy, who worked as a wrestling stage manager under the name "Woman," filed for divorce in 2003 (they married in 2000) alleging cruel treatment, but later dropped the complaint and her request for a restraining order, notes AP. Benoit had two children from a previous relationship, according to a second AP report.
USA Network's top-rated Monday Night RAW telecast (which was scheduled to include a "memorial service" for WWE head Vince McMahon, who was killed off in a fictional storyline) was pre-empted after WWE cancelled its RAW event in Corpus Christi, TX, and instead quickly produced a three-hour on-air tribute to Benoit's career, a last-minute decision that has drawn criticism from some outraged fans and critics.
Local authorities said at a press conference Monday afternoon the crime scene evidence indicates Benoit strangled his wife with a cord on Friday before suffocating their son with a bag and then hanging himself many hours later on Sunday, using a pulley in his basement weight room. Bibles were discovered next to the bodies of Nancy, found in an office, and Daniel, who was in an upstairs bedroom.
Benoit is the second WWE star from Canada to die in the past decade, following Owen Hart's tragic plunge during a 1997 pay-per-view. Another wrestler, Eddie Guerrero, died in Nov. 2005 from heart failure related to causes of drug and steroid abuse, according to an autopsy.
Benoit, who won the WWE world heavyweight championship at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, missed two appearances this past weekend — a live event Saturday in Beaumont, TX, and Sunday's Vengeance: Night of Champions pay-per-view event in Houston — which worried fans and WWE executives alike.
WWE VP of government relations Richard Hering then asked Fayette County sheriffs, who discovered the Benoits' bodies, to check on the family home Monday after a series of disturbing text messages Benoit sent Sunday to WWE colleagues.
Update: WWE late Monday revealed Benoit's five text messages (scroll down) and implied the company regrets the on-air tribute to Benoit on USA's RAW Monday night, which aired before the company knew the full circumstances surrounding his death: "The decision to cancel the live event scheduled in Corpus Christi that night was made between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. (Monday). In keeping with company policy, and with limited knowledge regarding facts of the case, WWE chose to air a memorial dedicated to the career of Chris Benoit. As facts emerged surrounding the case, all tributes to Chris Benoit were removed both on-air and on WWE.com."
WWE.com (which also deleted Benoit's merchandise and other content) posted the company's first statement Monday on Benoit's death here, and a Monday update here.
WWE Shocked At Latest Developments In Benoit Tragedy, Concerned By Sensationalistic Reporting
Tuesday June 26, 5:51 pm ET
STAMFORD, Conn., June 26, 2007 – World Wrestling Entertainment is stunned and saddened by the details released by local authorities concerning the double homicide-suicide involving Chris Benoit, his wife, Nancy, and his son, Daniel.
However, WWE is concerned with the sensationalistic reporting and speculation being undertaken by some members of the media following the press conference held by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney. During the press conference, the investigating authorities made the following points, all of which run contrary to the media speculation that "roid rage" was a factor in the senseless murders and suicide:
1. The authorities stated that all drugs found in the house were believed to be legal prescriptions.
2. Steroids were not, and could not, be related to the cause of death (asphyxiation). Authorities had no factual basis to speculate as to Benoit’s state of mind, and rightly did not do so.
3. Toxicology tests have not even been completed, so there is no current evidence that Benoit even had steroids or any other substance in his body. In that regard, on the last test done on Benoit by WWE's independently administered drug testing program, done on April 10, 2007, Benoit tested negative.
4. The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage. The wife's feet and hands were bound and she was asphyxiated, not beaten to death. By the account of the authorities, there were substantial periods of time between the death of the wife and the death of the son, again suggesting deliberate thought, not rage. The presence of a Bible by each is also not an act of rage.
5. WWE strongly suggests that it is entirely wrong for speculators to suggest that steroids had anything to do with these senseless acts, especially when the authorities plainly stated there is no evidence that Benoit had steroids in his body, pending the toxicological reports, and that they had no evidence at this time as to the motive for these acts.
WWE is continuing to monitor the ongoing investigation being conducted by local authorities.
WWE Shares Internal Timeline And Details Relating To Chris Benoit Tragedy
Tuesday June 26, 10:39 pm ET
STAMFORD, Conn.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—World Wrestling Entertainment today released additional details of what it knows concerning communication with Chris Benoit and authorities before and after the tragic double homicide-suicide involving Benoit, his wife Nancy, and his son, Daniel.
WWE's timeline of events began on Saturday:
* On Saturday, June 23, Chris Benoit was slated to appear at a WWE live event in Beaumont, Texas. That afternoon, Benoit contacted WWE to inform them that his wife and child were ill, and that he would not be able to attend the show.
* WWE executives rebooked Benoit's flight for the following morning, allowing Benoit to miss the Beaumont event and making alternate arrangements for him to attend the pay-per-view event in Houston on Sunday.
* WWE employees attempted to confirm with Benoit his travel plans but were unable to contact him.
* Early Sunday morning, between 3:51 and 3:58 a.m., Benoit sent five text messages to co-workers:
Text Message 1 to two co-workers (sent 6/24 at 3:53am)
- Chris Benoit's cell phone
"My physical address is 130 Green Meadow Lane, Fayetteville Georgia. 30215"
Text Message 2 to two co-workers (sent 6/24 at 3:53am)
- Chris Benoit's cell phone
"The dogs are in the enclosed pool area. Garage side door is open"
Text Message 3 to two co-workers (sent 6/24 at 3:54am)
- Nancy Benoit's cell phone
"My physical address is 130 Green Meadow Lane. Fayetteville Georgia. 30215"
Text Message 4 to two co-workers (sent 6/24 at 3:55am)
- Nancy Benoit's cell phone
"My physical address is 130 Green Meadow Lane. Fayetteville Georgia. 30215."
Text Message 5 to one co-worker (sent 6/24 at 3:58am)
- Nancy Benoit's cell phone
"My address is 130 Green Meadow Lane. Fayetteville Georgia. 30215"
* Throughout the day on Sunday, WWE made numerous attempts to contact Benoit both at home and at local hospitals in the Atlanta area. As of 11:00 p.m., WWE officials were unable to establish contact with Chris Benoit.
* At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 25, WWE officials were notified of the text messages sent to the co-workers the previous day. By 12:45 p.m., WWE had contacted Fayetteville County Sheriff's office requesting they check on the Benoit family.
* Fayetteville County Sheriffs office made contact with WWE at approximately 4:00 p.m. advising that they had entered the house of Chris Benoit and found three deceased bodies - an adult male, adult female and a male child. WWE was told that Benoit's home was now considered a major crime scene.
* The decision to cancel the live event scheduled in Corpus Christi that night was made between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. In keeping with company policy, and with limited knowledge regarding facts of the case, WWE chose to air a memorial dedicated to the career of Chris Benoit. As facts emerged surrounding the case, all tributes to Chris Benoit were removed both on-air and on WWE.com.
WWE was stunned and saddened by the details released today by local authorities and is continuing to monitor the ongoing investigation.