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Wrestlers allegedly tied to drug ring

Documents: 'Edge,' 'Hurricane' allegedly ordered HGH

Posted: Monday March 19, 2007 5:33PM; Updated: Monday March 19, 2007 5:43PM
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Eddie Guerrero died of heart disease, with his enlarged heart (linked to his past anabolic steroid use) being a contributing factor.
Eddie Guerrero died of heart disease, with his enlarged heart (linked to his past anabolic steroid use) being a contributing factor.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
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Also in this column:

• Orton allegedly ordered drugs from same doctors as Matthews Jr.

Since last summer
Sports Illustrated reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim have been investigating an alleged illegal steroid distribution network that has implicated numerous pro athletes. On Feb. 27 the two SI writers accompanied federal and state drug enforcement agents on a raid of a Jupiter, Fla., anti-aging clinic that investigators allege conspired to fraudulently prescribe steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs over the Internet.

SI.com: What's the latest?

Llosa/Wertheim: Investigators in Albany and Orlando continue to go through the material from last month's seizures. This means everything from testing drugs found in desk drawers to cross-referencing names that, we're told, include athletes of all levels.

SI.com: Any sense when these names will be made public?

Llosa/Wertheim: No. Obviously the "big names" are what have made this investigation a national concern. And, in all candor, it's the main reason news organizations -- including Sports Illustrated -- are pursuing the story. But investigators insist that athletes are really ancillary to their investigation. They're much more interested in breaking up the distribution pipeline which, they allege, is a marriage of fraudulent anti-aging clinics, complicit compounding pharmacies and doctors who rubber-stamp prescriptions for human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, steroids, etc., often without examining the patients.

For example, David Wilbirt, an Arizona doctor, was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency from 2001 to 2005 for allegedly writing 3,879 prescriptions between November 2004 and April 2005, all for "patients" who had requested drugs over the Internet. Though that was two years ago, his name has surfaced several times in the official documents we reviewed from the "Operation Netroids" investigation.

SI.com: Do investigators believe any of Wilbirt's "patients" were athletes?

Llosa/Wertheim: Yes. We'd already seen his name come up in conjunction with Kurt Angle, a 1996 Olympic gold-medal-winning freestyle wrestler and now a star professional wrestler who allegedly received two prescriptions for trenbolone and one for nandrolone between October 2004 and February '05. It turns out Angle isn't the only pro wrestler alleged to have received prescriptions from Wilbirt. According to the official documents we reviewed, Wilbirt was billed for HCG and the steroid stanozolol that were sent to WWE star Eddie Guerrero in early 2005. (Guerrero died on Nov. 13, 2005, in a Minneapolis hotel room due to what a coroner later ruled as heart disease, complicated by an enlarged heart resulting from a history of anabolic steroid use.) Wilbirt also allegedly issued prescriptions for the steroids nandrolone and stanozolol to Oscar Gutierrez, whose stage name is Rey Mysterio. (Through the WWE, Gutierrez declined comment.)

When reached at his home Wilbirt spoke with us briefly, asserting, "I'm not even practicing medicine now, so... I don't remember doing half the stuff you're talking about." (The Arizona Medical Board confirms that his license is currently suspended.) Asked specifically about the professional wrestlers, Wilbirt remarked: "I'll tell you one thing and then this conversation is going to end. They had done blood work and had laboratory work done and they had come to see me." Wilbirt obviously remains a "person of interest" for the investigators.

In total, there were 11 professional wrestlers listed in the documents that we saw. Some of these wrestlers are working as independents; some are out of the business entirely; others are first-tier stars. Consider Randy Orton, who allegedly received eight prescriptions for six different drugs -- stanozolol, nandrolone, anastrozole, Clomiphene citrate, oxandrolone and testosterone -- between March 2004 and August 2004. (Through the WWE, Orton declined comment.) Interestingly, 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.

SI.com: Most of the athletes named in your previous stories were allegedly receiving human growth hormone. It sounds as though the professional wrestlers were allegedly mostly receiving steroids.

Llosa/Wertheim: Right. At some level this stands to reason: The skill-set required for pro wrestling is obviously different from that of most other competitive sports. According to the documents two prominent wrestlers, Adam Copeland, a.k.a. Edge, and Shane Helms, a.k.a. The Hurricane, received HGH. (Through the WWE, Copeland and Helms didn't respond to a request for comment.) But virtually all the others allegedly received a wide variety of anabolic steroids. In each case these were supplied by Applied, the Mobile, Ala., compounding pharmacy that was raided last fall.

SI.com: Does the WWE have a drug policy?

Llosa/Wertheim: Gary Davis, a WWE spokesman, pointed us to a Talent Wellness Program instituted in February 2006. As to whether anabolic steroids and HGH are banned, Davis sent us an email quoting the policy: "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."

Citing privacy issues, Davis declined to say whether WWE wrestlers have tested positive for banned substances since the policy was implemented.