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WWE Offers Drug Rehab for Wrestlers
World Wrestling Entertainment officials have solicited to pay for rehabilitation for previous performers, in what may be the company's most significant acknowledgment to date of a locker room drug epidemic that has led to the deaths of numerous pro wrestlers.
"Over the last 10 years, an inordinate number of wrestlers have passed away," WWE chairman Vince McMahon wrote on a letter that was published by prowrestlingtorch.com. "Some of those deaths may in part have been caused by drugs and alcohol."
McMahon has asked wrestlers to spread word of the offer to other past performers who may have substance abuse problems.
WWE has offered to put ex-wrestlers through a certified drug or alcohol rehabilitation program chosen by WWE. "The WWE will pay for this service in full. There is no cost to you or your family," McMahon wrote in the letter. "We all need to do anything we can to help prevent another tragedy."
McMahon said the letter was sent to about 500 wrestlers beginning a week ago.
"The decision to do so was made by Vince as a humanitarian gesture, period," Jerry McDevitt, WWE attorney, said in a statement. "It is not intended to be, nor is it an acknowledgment of responsibility for the substance problems of anybody."
Three months earlier, police said WWE star Chris Benoit killed his wife and young son, and then himself. A large amount steroids were found in Benoit's home and an autopsy revealed highly elevated levels of testosterone in his system.
Nearly 50 wrestling personalities have died under the age of 50 since 1997. Five former WWE wrestlers under 50 have died this year alone.
McDevitt said WWE's offer "will do no more than help those who want to help themselves but lack the resources to pay for rehabilitation."
Former WWE wrestler and Queens native Chris "Kanyon" Klucsarits said the effort is "a big turnaround" from McMahon's previous attempt to distance WWE from talk of substance abuse problems.
McMahon said during an interview on the "Today" show shortly after Benoit's death that he should have to answer only for the deaths of five wrestlers who were under WWE contracts.
"He got into a very defensive position, and now it's like after he had time to develop a game plan, he's come up with this," Klucsarits said.