As the former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon has a “profound responsibility” to address steroid use in the sports and entertainment industry head-on, according to steroid abuse awareness activist Don Hooton.
Hooton said that he created the Taylor Hooton Foundation to educate young people about the dangers of steroid use after his son Taylor committed suicide in 2003 because of severe depression that doctors said was a direct result of his use of anabolic steroids.
A Texas resident and lifelong Republican, Hooton said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning that he decided to weigh in on Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race because he felt McMahon has been giving “ambiguous signals” regarding the health risks involved with anabolic steroid use.
“I’ve seen her quoted on more than one occasion, she and her husband would lead the uneducated observer to the conclusion that the medical community is not clear whether or not the drugs are dangerous,” he said. “That’s simply not the case.”
Hooton said that after an interview he gave to a Connecticut newspaper last week, he was hoping the candidate would take a strong position against the drug rather than rely on the WWE’s wellness policy.
“What we got was a surrogate responding and quoting the mantra that the WWE has a policy in this regard and, to me, that doesn’t address or speak squarely what we’re facing here,” he said.
“We’ve got about a million kids around the country that admit they have used anabolic steroids,” he said, adding that one of the biggest catalysts for use of the drug is the examples set by sports and entertainment stars.
“Whether it’s a sport or whether it’s entertainment, the truth is that all of these characters that play their role out in the wrestling ring are all role models for our children.”
Hooton also noted that a high percentage of the young people who use the drug do so to alter their body image rather than gain a competitive advantage in sports. Muscle dysmorphia, or bigorexia, is a body image disorder that is marked by an obsessive desire to become more muscular and Hooton said he believes role models like the professional wrestlers in the WWE contribute to the problem.
Despite the WWE’s written policy banning steroids, Hooton said he believes steroids are a lingering problem in professional wrestling and asked people to “look with their own eyes” at the size and image of the performers.
“The common sense test would lead me to believe that we haven’t eliminated the use of anabolic steroids in professional wrestling,” he said.
However, if the WWE has stopped the practice, Hooton said he’s confused by McMahon’s “ambiguous statements” on the matter.
“I wonder why Linda McMahon has such difficulty taking what appears to me to be a pretty obvious and non-controversial stand,” he said. “This stuff is dangerous. It’s illegal. Adults shouldn’t be doing it, let alone the children of this country.”
Hooton, who testified before Congress in 2005 as an expert witness on the subject of steroid abuse, said that next week his foundation will be launching an aggressive campaign to lobby the government to raise awareness of the subject.
“We’ll try to cajole, push, kick, lead, whatever we have to do to get the federal government to begin investing in education on this topic with our kids,” he said.
Given the lack of clarity in the statements she has made about the drug, Hooton said he doubts that McMahon, as a senator, would be an ally to his cause.
“We need to air this issue out now, before the election as opposed to after,” he said.
At the time this article was written the McMahon campaign would not take calls regarding the issue and had yet to respond to emails for comment.