By Mike Mooneyham

March 25, 2007

Several top WWE stars have been named as having received steroids and human growth hormone in an ongoing investigation into Internet drug sales.

While that’s not exactly earth-shattering news in the wrestling world, it was the latest headline as part of a major sports story that has been making the mainstream rounds in recent weeks.

A report last week on Sports Illustrated’s Web site linked six pro wrestlers – Randy Orton, Edge (Adam Copeland), Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez), Gregory “Hurricane” Helms (Shane Helms), Kurt Angle and the late Eddie Guerrero – to a nationwide steroids probe. The first four are WWE performers. Angle and Guererro are former WWE champs. Angle, a former Olympic gold medalist, left WWE for TNA last year, while Guerrero died of what was believed to be a steroid-related heart ailment in 2005.

According to documentation viewed by SI reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim, Dr. David Wilbirt of Arizona, who is under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for writing 3,879 prescriptions for patients who requested drugs over the Internet, was linked to several of the wrestlers.

The reporters have been investigating an alleged illegal steroid distribution network that has implicated numerous pro athletes including baseball’s Gary Matthews Jr., Jose Canseco, Jerry Hairston Jr., John Rocker and David Bell, and former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.

Wilbirt, who lost his medical license in 2005, allegedly was part of a scheme similar to the one that has been unraveling over the past few weeks after Albany, N.Y., District Attorney David Soares led a multi-agency raid on Signature Compounding Pharmacy in Orlando. Investigators have targeted physicians who allegedly wrote prescriptions for patients they had never seen, “anti-aging” clinics that hired them and pharmacies that filled the prescriptions.

Wilbirt’s residence was raided in June 2005 by agents who reportedly seized patient files, a computer, more than $40,000 in cash, $29,000 in gold and silver bullion, testosterone and human growth hormone.

Investigators are reviewing more than 2,000 pounds of files seized from Orlando, which are expected to include the names of more professional athletes who received performance-enhancing drugs.

SI reported on its Web site last week that wrestlers Copeland and Helms received human growth hormone from Applied Pharmacy in Mobile, Ala., one of the pharmacies raided in the investigation led by Soares. Orton allegedly received eight prescriptions for six different drugs – stanozolol, nandrolone, anastrozole, Clomiphene citrate, oxandrolone and testosterone – between March 2004 and August 2004. According to the documents, Orton’s prescriptions came from the same two doctors whose names appeared on the prescriptions in major league outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.’s file.

Prescriptions for the steroids nandrolone and stanozolol also allegedly were issued for Gutierrez. Guerrero was listed as having been billed and sent stanazol.

“They had done blood work and had laboratory work done and they had come to see me,” Wilbirt told when asked about the wrestlers.

SI said it had seen the names of 11 wrestlers in documents it reviewed. The recent report only named six whose names had shown up on the customer lists of pharmacies that have been busted for filling illegal prescriptions for the banned performance-enhancing drugs.

A statement released by WWE said the allegations reported by SI occurred before the organization implemented its talent wellness program.

“The WWE policy prohibits the use of performance-enhancing drugs, as well as other prescription drugs which can be abused, if taken for other than a legitimate medical purpose pursuant to a valid prescription from a licensed and treating physician. For purposes of WWE’s policy, prescriptions obtained over the Internet and/or from suppliers of prescription drugs from the Internet are not considered to have been given for a legitimate medical purpose.”

Copeland responded to the allegations on his MySpace page, admitting that he received HGH from a pharmacy in 2003, but added that he already had admitted doing so on Canada’s “Off The Record” sports talk show in 2004.

“I won’t try to defend my actions,” he said. “I took them when coming back from my spinal fusion neck surgery when I was told by doctors that it would help the bones grow back around the screws and plate that were now inserted in my neck. I’m not glorifying. I’m not condoning. Just telling you why I decided to take them. I took blood tests, consulted doctors, read up, studied them, got prescriptions and decided to do it.”

“Now as I’m sure most you can tell, I don’t take steroids and haven’t in a very long time, long before the WWE drug testing wellness policy was implemented,” the 6-5, 240-pounder added. “Hell, I barely see the inside of a gym anymore, let alone take performance-enhancing substances.”

Helms also defended his position on his MySpace account, saying that he went through a doctor following a knee injury several years ago, bypassing the prospect of more serious surgery.

“I would like to think that it’s well in my human rights to take whatever a doctor tells me to if it helps my condition and relieves my pain. Isn’t that what everyone goes to a doctor for? Shane Helms committed no crime and did absolutely nothing illegal. And that is a fact.”

“Trust me, there are a million ways to get any kind of legal or illegal medicine/drug you want,” he added. “However, I was under the assumption that going through a doctor, getting treatment and therapy for a totally legal medicine was the right way to go about dealing with this particular injury. And this injury that might have led to surgery had I not taken the therapy that I did … Besides, look at me, I’m not 300 pounds of muscle. The biggest I’ve ever been is 215, I’m not abusing anything other that the abuse my body takes doing the job I love.”

Three-time WCW heavyweight champ Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkinburg), who retired from the ring in 2002, said he wasn’t surprised at all by the report.

“All of this attention on the wrestlers right now is unfortunate, but it’s entertainment,” Page said. “It’s not like it’s the Olympics.”

Page, 50, who admitted taking steroids during his ring career, said steroid usage is prevalent in all fields of sports and entertainment, including the movie industry.

“I’m not afraid to admit what I’ve done. I did steroids. But I don’t do them now. But you know what? Everybody in the NFL … in baseball … they make choices and give up other health issues. … This is entertainment no matter what. These guys know what they’re doing. It’s their lives. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong, but this is America.”

He pointed to the fans’ insatiable appetite for bigger and better. Page said steroid usage isn’t encouraged by promoters, but the fans put pressure on performers in all sports to improve and do better. “They want a faster 40. They want to see the ball hit out of the park. They want to see a faster fastball. NASCAR’s the hottest thing on the planet. How much faster can those cars go? Now they’ve got movies that are digitalized. It is what it is.”

Page, who started late in the wrestling business at the age of 36, said he needed an extra edge in spite of a strong work ethic. But it’s been years since he resorted to performance-enhancing substances.

In fact, he says, he’s feeling better than ever thanks to a form of workout he created called YRG (Yoga for Regular Guys). He’s hesitant to call it “yoga,” though, saying the term is a turnoff.

“It’s power yoga meets old school calisthenics. I’m all about nutrition and fitness right now. I was never into being the big, yoked-up, muscled-up guy,” said the 6-5, 230-pound Page. “That wasn’t me. I was the regular guy.”

“When I ruptured my L4 and L5 (disks) at 42 years old, the doctors said my wrestling career was over,” said Page. “It was 1998, and I was on top of the (wrestling) world.”

Page said it was his wife at the time, former Nitro Girl Kimberly Page, who turned him on to power yoga to heal his body.

“You’re living your childhood dream. But it’s over if you don’t try this,” she told him.

Page relented.

“I was getting beat all the time, and all of a sudden I was one of the top guys in the world. I worked my (behind) off to get there. I was willing to do whatever it took to get back. I figured, what the hell, let me give it a shot.” Page said he felt a significant improvement in three weeks, and in three months, he was back in the ring. “At 42 they said my wrestling career was over. At 43 I was the heavyweight champion.” And making a seven-figure income.

Page has since released a book and DVD on Yoga for Regular Guys. The discipline has attracted such proponents as Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Derrick Brooks, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kris Benson, the Georgia Tech football team and even rock-and-roller Dee Snyder.

Page says he made a workout video 2 1/2 years while in Iraq at Saddam Hussein’s former palace.

“I made it for friends of mine who wanted to try it.”

Page made it especially for his best friend, Larry “Smokey” Genta, whom Page says was 5-9, 270 pounds, 14 months from 50 and had never worked out a day in his life. “He was a heart attack waiting to happen.” A downhearted Genta called Page back after giving it a try, telling him, “I guess I’m not a regular guy. I tried the workout. I can’t do it.”

Refusing to take no for an answer, Page altered the workout, and created another one he labeled YRG: 50 Plus.

Genta, whose 14-month goal was to lose 50 pounds by his 50th birthday, ended up dropping 73 pounds in only six months.

“He’s become an inspiration to so many people,” says Page.

– Thanks to Ron Coward of North Charleston for pointing out that the San Diego Chargers’ “Fearsome Foursome” of the early ’60s consisted of Ernie Ladd, Earl Faison, Ron Neary and Bill Hudson – not Richard Hudson – as I had listed in last week’s column.

Bill Hudson was a 1953 graduate of North Charleston High School where he was selected as All American in football and All State in basketball. He went on to Clemson (as did four older brothers before him) where he was a three-year starter finishing in 1957. He played pro football in Montreal from 1957-59 and then went to San Diego where he and Jack Kemp were co-captains. Coward reports that Hudson, a member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame, went on to become very successful in business and is now semi-retired in Spartanburg.

– WWE announced last week that Wrestlemania 24 will be held March 30, 2008, at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

It will be the first outdoor Wrestlemania since 1993 in Las Vegas.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies will be March 29, 2008, at the Amway Arena in Orlando.

The Central Florida Sports Commission said the show is expected to bring in more than $25 million to the economy.

– One of the more curious choices to induct Jerry “The King” Lawler into the WWE Hall of Fame was announced last week. Actor William Shatner, who was involved in a brief wrestling angle with Lawler years ago, will do the honors.

– Even more curious is the glaring omission of 16-time world champ Ric Flair from the Wrestlemania lineup.

– Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs will induct the late Curt Hennig into the WWE Hall of Fame during ceremonies that will air as a one-hour special midnight Saturday on the USA Network.

“I met Curt in 1983 in Rochester, N.Y., and we became good friends, hunting and fishing buddies. In fact, he once saved my life while were were hunting in 2001,” Boggs told the WWE Web site. “I got entangled into a barbed wire fence and was cut pretty badly. It took all the strength Curt had to free me and carry me about a mile back to the truck. He saved my life and has a special place in my heart. We spent as much time as we could together, and it’s a shame he was taken from us so early.”

– Aretha Franklin will be singing “America the Beautiful” to open up Wrestlemania 23 next weekend. The – “First Lady of Soul” also performed the song at Wrestlemania 3 in Detroit 20 years ago.

– WWE has released diva Rebecca DiPietro from her contract. She most recently had served as an ECW backstage announcer.