Linda McMahon: Jury's still out on steroid risks

The entire profile of Linda McMahon in Businessweek is worth a read, but here's the part that will stand out to most readers.

In an interview with author Andrew Rice, McMahon seemed to take the side of her husband, Vince, who suggested in Congressional testimony in 2009 that the FDA had never fully established the medical risks of steroid use - a major issue of controversy for the McMahons' company, WWE, and for candidate McMahon herself.

Here's Rice putting the question to Linda McMahon:

Although there's been some scaremongering, research has linked steroid use by athletes to liver, cardiac, musculoskeletal, and reproductive system damage, as well as psychiatric effects. When I asked Linda McMahon about the issue, however, she said she shared her husband's doubts.

"There's some evidence sometimes of muscle disease, or cardiac disease, but it's really hard to know because you didn't know the condition of the performer's heart, or whatever, prior to," she told me. "So I still don't think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don't believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive."

It's an interesting answer for a candidate who has insisted that her company takes steroid abuse by its wrestlers very seriously. Especially since McMahon, as her one-time Republican rival frequently pointed out, is the only candidate in the race whose company was once prosecuted, unsuccessfully, for distributing steroids to its wrestlers.

(Vince McMahon and the parent company of what was then called WWF, Titan Sports, were acquitted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the FDA through mislabeling of steroids. The other charge that went to trial, conspiracy to distribute steroids, was thrown out by a trial judge because prosecutors failed to establish that the crime they charged occurred in the venue where it was tried, the Eastern District of New York.)

I asked McMahon's camp to clarify her position on the health effects of steroids, and to say how her views on the potential dangers of steroids might affect the company's "health and wellness policy" for its wrestlers.

The full profile is here.

Update: I asked McMahon's communications director, Ed Patru, to clarify the candidate's position on the risks of steroids, here's his response:

"Linda clearly is opposed to illegal drug use. She believes steroid use can have long-term negative physical and psychiatric impact on the body, and those negative impacts obviously are exacerbated with abuse. Furthermore, she supports continuing research on the issue so that the public can better understand the full scope of impact long-term use has on the body. As for the WWE, it has a very clearly defined policy on all illegal drugs, which I’m sure you’ve read."

For readers who care, that program is described here.

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