Steroid use in WWE has changed, and we have come a long way regarding wellness, well-being, and drug testing.
Nowadays, wrestlers are regularly tested for performance-enhancing drugs such as HGH and steroids. If violations are made, fines and suspensions are handed out accordingly. WWE has also done an admirable job of looking out for wrestlers from the past, offering support and fronting rehabilitation programs’ costs, if needed. This wasn’t always the case.
Steroid Use in the WWE – Discussed by Hulk Hogan, Sherri Martel, Lex Luger, Ultimate Warrior, The Rock, and more.
If you were ever looking for a comprehensive, retrospective tell-all view on the past state of drugs and steroid use in the WWE, look no further. Many prominent names from the past and present give their take on steroid use in the WWE and how it affected theirs and other lives.
Ultimate Warrior was quoted as saying, “The bottom line is, there are differences between use and abuse – and it’s obvious that many guys crossed the line…” Unfortunately for many quoted in this article about steroid use in the WWE, they aren’t around today to tell a story with a positive ending.
Why steroid use in the WWE began:
“I was an offensive guard. Back then, they were quick, pulling guards – not 300-pound monsters. I wanted to look good on the beach, so I had slimmed down to about 235 pounds. Now here it’s February, and camp starts in May, and I needed to be at least about 255…so I had to gain weight quick…”
“In sports, the saying is: ‘The ends justify the means.’ We are taught that since we were little. ‘Do whatever you got to do to win; to be the best; step over, step on and step through…’ That is how all these performance-enhancing drugs got into our culture. And that leads to guys wanting to take shortcuts. And then, cheat until you get caught. And then lie…”
“A guy in the gym said, ‘Buddy, these little blue pills are called Dianabol…’ I took four a day, five milligrams apiece. You get on these steroids, and you train better, eat more. And you retain water from them. So I gained 15 pounds in about two months. I jumped on it, and it worked. And it is the same old thing: Once you do something one time, it leads to another. And then, I started in the offseason, where I would do one cycle for 12 weeks. A friend of mine was an exercise physiologist. She monitored my blood [levels]. I never took it in-season. I’d just take it in the offseason to build as much strength as I could…”
“It was kind of a wave of what was the correct thing to do at the time. In the ’70s, 80′s, doctors would write you a prescription for a steroid; every sport in the world was doing it. The mindset was, ‘It was safer than taking sugar’…”
“I would tell kids to train, say their prayers, and take their vitamins. But it wasn’t just vitamins I was taking…”
“I tried it. My buddies and I tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19 [as a defensive lineman for the University of Miami]. We didn’t know what we were doing…”
“A lot of people didn’t know about steroids then. Nowadays, little kids go, ‘Oh [that guy’s] on steroids…’ But back then, nobody knew. What really prompted me was when I started noticing the attention that these guys got from women…like when they walked through the mall. you know, I’d be behind them and [girls would be whispering] ‘Did you see that guy…’ And I thought, ‘Wow…I want that…'”
“Back in 1980, you know, steroids then were not that prevalent as they are now. They were just coming out. If you didn’t use them, then the other guys using them had a jump on you; Superstar [Billy Graham] or these other guys had an edge on you…”
SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM:
“It is absolutely the nature of the beast of pro wrestling to be dishonest, to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to deceive. After all, back in the day when we were kayfabing everybody, our sole goal was deception; to make the thing a reality. We lived that deception…”
“I have always taken the heat for my own steroid use in the WWE and never blamed anyone except myself. [When I was champion], I wrestled around 330 times that year. It was absurd, but I wanted to take advantage of it. I had my dependencies; there was no way that I personally could have traveled, could have trained, could have dieted, and could have done the exhausting scheduling without chemical help. Because you know, you are going through different time-zones, you’re jet-lagged, and your system is so thrown off by jet lag and the irregularity of your schedule, it just wreaks havoc on your physical body. Also, a person like me had to throw in the factor of training and hitting the gym every day. I was a bodybuilder, and to keep my look…I had to get there, fly to a town, rent a car, get a hotel room, eat, go to the gym, get a two-hour workout in, go to the arena, do your deal, get back, eat, go to bed, get up early the next morning, and do the same thing. It’s a horrific, destructive thing on your system…”
“Talking about steroids is always a Catch-22. They aren’t all bad, and they aren’t all good. Athletes are going to do them—or whatever else—to be the best at what they do. But, let’s face it, bodybuilding and wrestling are more circus-like—people want to see the ‘freaks’…”
“If I had to relate anything to the lifestyle, it would be to point out how the demands of being a pro-wrestler differ from the lifestyle of other organized sports pro-athletes. There is no ‘Season’ – you go year-round. If part of your gimmick is your physique, your body look, then that demands a different approach than a big fat guy who can sleep and eat pizza all day and doesn’t have to worry about scheduling workouts or getting good food.
“But, still, a cheap excuse is a cheap excuse. Also, and this is probably a big contributing factor as to how guys get messed up—other than the relationships you have with other talents you want to be around—you basically travel alone, and as long as you make it to the building to have your match, you don’t answer to anyone about what you do. And with the travel you do, you can fall into a bad habit of burning the candle at both ends.
“You are in different, often fun, and unique places almost every night, and you can come to see work as well, like being constantly on vacation. And, hey, we all cut corners on sleep, recuperation, and healthy living when we are on vacation. It’s easy to fall into the habit of abusing stimulants and painkillers to cover up for lackluster energy…”
“It’s not so much the lifestyle itself; it’s the way the guys go about mishandling the lifestyle and coming to abuse it. When I was at WCW, the guys were flying to the Bahamas to get physicals to cover some legal loophole allowing them to get GH, then getting a whole year’s supply Fed-Exed to them, all under the guise of ‘anti-aging’…”
“Who didn’t do steroids? The word came down from the promoters, especially Vince McMahon, that you had to be ‘bigger than life.’ The only way to do that was to take anabolic steroids…”
“I’ve never encouraged anyone at any time to have steroid use in the WWE…”
“You have to understand back in the 1980s what the wrestling business was. Some wrestlers had difficulty dealing with success in an ego-driven business. We are in the entertainment business, and I would suggest in that era, it was literally sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You could compare us to a rock and roll band in the early ’80s. The performers were making exorbitant amounts of money. Not all of them took steroids. But, later, if you added prescription painkillers to the mix of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, it was a deadly cocktail. For some, habits never changed. They continued with the same lifestyle. You can’t do that at age 40…”
“What is abuse of steroids? I don’t know what that is. No one can tell you what that is. You can abuse sugar or any other substance or any other drug…”
“It’s a little different for the wrestlers today, but the schedule I had to keep left you not knowing who you were. In 1991, I did an afternoon show in Manchester, England, and an evening show in the same building. Then, I got on a plane from Manchester to Heathrow and Heathrow to Connecticut. I went in and did five hours of voiceovers for television. Then I got on a plane to Alaska, wrestled there, flew back as far as Seattle, and then I rented a car and drove 160 miles home. And that was all in one loop, without a break. It’s tough to make that route without a ‘shot of whiskey’…”
“There was so much that we put our bodies through on a daily basis…things that God did not intend us to do. And in turn, people find ways to compensate to get through it. I found ways…and it got to the point where I could not control it anymore. It affected my job; it affected the people I was around…”
“A normal working day for me was: speed to wake me up in the morning to catch an early flight, valium to make me sleep on the plane—Percocet just before the match. Then we’d wrestle, hit the beer and the cocaine until the early hours, before taking another valium to sleep at night. I was in good company because the majority of wrestlers all shared more or less the same lifestyle…"
“When I started with WWE in 2002, I needed to get bigger, and I had to get bigger in a short period of time. Naturally, I wasn’t going to get there. It paid my bills and helped me survive for a living. I’d do it again. People think it’s the worst, but if it’s done with doctor supervision, it aided my career…”
“A lot of the guys I ran with all those years continued to take steroids year after year – those guys have their knees and their hips replaced [now]. I’m not saying everybody who gets their knees and their hips replaced took steroids. I just noticed that the guys who did that were too big, too bulky, too heavy, and the body couldn’t handle it, and it took its toll…”
“When I joined WWE, it was full of people who were taking tons of pills and drinking tons of alcohol on a nightly basis. I got caught up in that whirlwind really quick. We weren’t allowed to smoke a joint. They were testing for illegal drugs, and marijuana was an illegal drug in most states. So that was the big thing. We weren’t allowed to smoke a joint. If they had only allowed us to smoke pot, we wouldn’t be taking all of these pills and getting fucked up and getting drunk every night…”
“When I was full time in wrestling, people that were taking part in steroid use in the WWE, recreational drugs, and prescription drugs would convince themselves that they have their usage under control. When warning signs would pop up, the excuse was hereditary or diet. Everybody, including myself, was convinced there were no issues, despite co-workers having health issues when they got older. Many of us rationalized it as if we got a prescription; it was legal and ethical. We convinced ourselves that it was no different than getting any over the counter prescription. Deep down, we all knew the truth…”
Hulk Hogan’s Big Lie About His Steroid Use in the WWE.
When Hogan appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1991, everyone (including Arsenio himself) expected Hogan to come clean about steroid use in the WWE. Instead, Hogan lied throughout. When it came down to it, though, Hogan didn’t fool anybody. Instead, he hemmed, and he hawed uncomfortably in front of the cameras, and rather than admit to his steroid use in the WWE, he gave himself away by his constant verbal tics, like the word, "basically."
HOGAN (On The Arsenio Hall Show, 1991):
“I trained for twenty years, two hours a day to look like I do…I am not a steroid abuser, and I do not use steroids…”
“I injected [Hogan] well over 100 times. I regularly gave him shots in the triceps, where he couldn’t reach himself, and also a few times in the butt…”
“I think the mindset changed around ’90 when it became illegal. There was an era when it wasn’t just steroid use in the WWE, but it was predominant in every single sport across the board, but now I think, even though it’s prevalent, it’s not as inundated as it was back then…"
“I’m sure Hulk Hogan in his head thought if he denied extensive steroid use in the WWE in 1991, the media would move on. Who would have ever thought his denial would cause a steroid media buzz that attacked wrestling so fiercely with major ramifications. Desirable TV time slots were lost. Merchandise died in retail stores. Sponsors left in droves. The fan base dwindled…”
“At that time, every wrestler I knew was taking part in steroid use in the WWE. They were part of my generation. I’m not making excuses, but they were everywhere. And a lot of that had to do with what we knew about them, which obviously wasn’t enough. The most commonly prescribed were testosterone, Deca-Durabolin, and Dianabol. I never had a question about whether I would take them. It was part of my daily regimen. Did you take a shower? Yeah. Did you brush your teeth? Yeah. Did you take your steroids? Yeah. That was the deal. It was how I lived…”
How Steroid Use in WWE Changed Once it Became Illegal:
“There was a doctor Mario DiPasquale. He ran Vince’s drug testing policy. In my opinion, he was probably one of the top two or three most knowledgeable people about performance-enhancing drugs…and how to beat the tests, by the way. He was great at his job. He was very understanding of us because he was an athlete himself. He understood what we were going through. But at the same time, we could show up one day, take a test, and then think we would be okay for a couple of days, and bam, the next day, he’d hit us with another one. It wasn’t just where you walk in. They give you a cup, you go into the bathroom, and you piss in a cup. In the bathroom you go into to piss in, there’s a guy standing there. We call him the cock-watcher. They watched the stream of urine leave your genitalia and go into the cup. I couldn’t think of a way to beat the test. I mean, not very many drug testing policies require somebody to actually watch it come out of you. Even when I was in rehab, you could go and have some privacy while you were taking the test. But nothing is unbeatable…”
“People waited for me to come in [to the dressing room] and piss in the bottles for them. You know, ‘Hey Roma, thank god you’re here…we’ve got a piss test.’ So I’d give everyone a little bit, just enough…everybody’s hand in their piss, and they’d pass…”
ANIMAL (ROAD WARRIORS):
“When we took steroids in the younger part of our career, they were legal, and we took them under doctor supervision. When they told us that we couldn’t take them anymore – that they were against the rules – we stopped taking them…”
“Thankfully, I got smart somehow or another in 1990 and stopped taking steroids – totally stopped…”
“I think there’s too much they do not know about growth hormone and what kind of hell it plays on your internal organs. I saw an article on world-class cyclers, and it was amazing to me how many of those guys have died. I never knew. And you’d think, your first thought is, that these guys would have really great hearts—and yet most of them died of heart attacks. The only conclusion you can come to is that they are doing some extreme things with drugs. The bottom line is, there are differences between use and abuse – and it’s obvious that many guys crossed the line…”
“We have to recognize that a culture was created [across all sports] where it was OK to do that, and a lot of team managers, owners, players who didn’t do it would turn the other cheek…”
“Their Wellness Policy is a political issue. A lot of people have addictions. And if they don’t have the willpower to control it, that’s when it becomes a problem…”
SEAN WALTMAN on the time the wrestlers beat the test that tested against steroid use in the WWE:
“There was one time we beat the test. It was the Royal Rumble of 1995. It was in Tampa. We started figuring out in our drug addict minds that, okay, they test at house shows, but they don’t test us at TVs because there’s too much going on at TVs. Same for pay-per-views. And they don’t test us in non-English-speaking countries, so if we go to Europe, we can get away with smoking a joint.
“We had all these things figured out in our heads…or so we thought. Anyway, we show up for the pay-per-view. Bam, they got us. There are signs up: ‘Drug testing.’
“We’re dirty because we smoked pot the night before. We’re like, oh shit! So guys were going in and taking the test. I was avoiding it all day long. So I’m telling the guy that’s doing the test, ‘Uh, I can’t really piss…’ He could tell I was nervous. I didn’t want to get caught. Nobody wants to get caught because it costs you money, and you get suspended.
“He goes, ‘Give me two hundred bucks, and I’ll piss for you.’ I’m telling you, two hundred dollars never left my wallet and went into somebody else’s hands so quick in my life. I didn’t even think that the guy could have been dirty himself if he was pissing into the cup.
“This guy actually couldn’t piss for everybody, but I think he pretty much took a couple of hundred bucks from several people in the company and ended up dumping their samples out. That was the only time that I could tell you that that test was beatable. It was because of a corrupt person who was administering the tests…"
“I got called up to the office. I remember walking in there, and it was JJ Dillon, Bruce Prichard, and Vince McMahon sitting there in front of me. ‘Sherri…your drug test has come back positive again,’ they said. ‘We have to let you go.’ I said, ‘Alright.’ I knew I’d screwed up. What would have been the point of getting up and yelling and screaming? I couldn’t blame them for it. They didn’t make me do it. I didn’t tell anyone I got fired. I just went around everyone, said goodbye, and gave them all an extra tight hug. I knew I’d never see them again…”
TRIPLE H on Steroid Use in WWE and whether an advantage is gained by taking them in wrestling:
“I think in baseball or any other sport where somebody can gain an unfair advantage over somebody…I think then they should be tested. I think there should be punishment for the guys who do them. I think they should be regulated. I am not a big believer in the government stepping into sports, but I think it needs to be taken care of within the sports themselves. In other forms of entertainment, there is no benefit to be gained by using steroids. It is like saying, well, if you take steroids are you going to be a better actor in the movie. It’s entertainment. You aren’t going to win the contest by improving your athletic performance by taking steroids…”
“I’ve never failed a drug test in my life. When WWE told me to take one, I told them to have Triple H pick me up in a limo. We could go test together. (laughs) They never asked again!”
“[Drug addiction] is something this business has to address. Sweeping it under the table isn’t going to fix it, and band-aiding it like offering the guys rehab after the fact like Vince has done – which is admirable – but it’s still band-aiding it. There’s just no way you can burn the candle at both ends and the middle like you have to in this business for well in excess of 250 days a year. You can’t beat your body up for prolonged periods.
“There may be a case here or there that doesn’t need it, but well over 80 or 90 percent of the time, when you do what we do to our bodies for the length of time that we do it, it’s inevitable that addiction is going to follow. If it’s not the pain pills, it’s some illicit drug – heroin, cocaine, crack, fill in the blank.
“It’s like I told the FBI agent that called me after the Chris Benoit tragedy, there’s no way you can run that schedule for a prolonged period and not eventually need something for the physical and emotional pain of being away from your family and loved ones and the mundanity of being on the road.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a limousine, a leer jet, or a Motel 6, you’re still on the road, and it gets incredibly mind-numbing. So for all those reasons, you need something to numb your mind from it, whether that means smoking something, popping something, snorting something, shooting something, or drinking something. In this business, the real double whammy is that we beat our bodies to hell, and that leads to pain medication, which is incredibly addictive…”
ANIMAL (of the Road Warriors) on if steroid use in WWE was the cause of death for his tag partner, Hawk:
“I want to make it perfectly clear that steroids weren’t the reason that [tag-team partner] Hawk died. What killed Hawk and messed him up was going to Australia and getting free Xanax and Cocaine from people and doing the ‘yo-yo’ effect. That’s what caused Curt Henning to die, that’s what caused Rick Rude to die, and that’s what caused Davey Boy Smith to die. You do all the upper stuff like Cocaine, and then you do Morphine or whatever to bring you down, and that’s what leads to making your heart explode. I was with Hawk in Australia, and his resting pulse rate was 190…”
“I want youngsters to be educated. I’m not trying to repent, but I am being honest about my failings. If I was 25 right now, coming into this business, I don’t know if I’d make the same choices that I did in that locker room…”
“I really think the thicker look of past wrestlers really had more to do with how people used to train and eat—the basics and good food. The skin on guys today is thinner. Nutrition and even training have been so broken down into little, itty-bitty specializations…I really think it’s created different looking physiques. I still believe in the basics and just good eating of healthy foods. Not the machines so much or the endless supplementation programs that are out there. It’s just a bunch of junk to waste money on. But it’s hard to get a young kid who wants instant muscles to grasp that. For some, it will take getting to know the inside of a casket before they come to terms with that…”
“You can’t blame the wrestling business on the personal choices that we make. We all knew – all of us – the criteria of having a job with Vince. We all knew the criteria for having a job with [Ted] Turner. Everybody knew, especially after the steroid scandal. To roll a joint and smoke it, to put a pill in your mouth…that is a personal choice. I had everything, and I threw it away. Everybody tried to help me. But the drugs won out. I made the choice; I paid the price…”
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Sources used for this article: Esquire, World Wrestling Insanity, F4W Online, Muscle and Fitness, Rover’s Morning Glory radio show, Flynnfiles, Camel Clutch Blog, In Your Head Online, Canoe SLAM! Sports, WWE Radio, ESPN, Elite Fitness, ‘Hollywood Hulk Hogan’ 2003 Autobiography, ‘Pure Dynamite’ Autobiography by Dynamite Kid, Chris Yandek, People Magazine, The Sun UK, RF Video, Baltimore Sun
Quotes used in this article on steroid use in the WWE originally compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.