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Wrestler`s Doctor Indicted
Aired July 2, 2007 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Tonight, breaking news in the case of the superstar WWE wrestler and his entire family found dead inside their upscale gated community in the Atlanta suburbs. Headlines tonight. Federal charges come down against the personal doctor of Chris Benoit after two raids by DEA agents and local sheriffs at his office and home. The doctor now faces charges of improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs. While theories fly that Benoit himself was actually murdered, police still believe it was a double murder/suicide.
And now yet another shocker. The local DA in Georgia is casting doubt on whether the dead son ever had any mental disability called fragile X syndrome, raising a possibility that the 7-year-old boy was perfectly healthy when he was killed.
Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking on toxicology results. Funeral plans are under way. And tonight, police ramp up their investigation into just how the crime spree made its way on line hours before the bodies were discovered. The alleged hoaxster behind the on-line posting comes under questioning and could face criminal charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The personal physician of pro wrestler Chris Benoit turned himself in today to face a federal drug charge. Dr. Phil Astin`s been charged with a single count of improperly prescribing medication and is expected to appear at a hearing later today. Two raids have been conducted on Dr. Astin`s office since Benoit and his family were found dead last month. A Georgia prosecutor says he has no plans to file criminal charges in Chris Benoit`s death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace.
Tonight, federal drug charges handed down in the case of a superstar WWE wrestler found dead along with his entire family. Pro wrestling great Chris Benoit is believed to have murdered his wife and their 7-year-old disabled son inside their Atlanta-area home before hanging himself with weight-lifting equipment. And of course, there`s a question as to whether his son, now, was even disabled. And now also Chris Benoit`s personal doctor has turned himself in to the feds and been ordered to surrender his medical license.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Following the double murder/suicide of Chris Benoit and his family, the feds have been turning up the heat on his doctor, Dr. Phil Astin turning himself in today to face drug charges. Now, federal drug agents raided his office twice last week. They wanted to know if he improperly prescribed testosterone and other drugs to Benoit, who strangled his wife and son and hung himself last month. Well, now Dr. Astin has been hit with seven counts of improperly dispensing painkillers to other patients. Today`s indictment does not mention Benoit. A sealed criminal complaint involving steroids was also filed today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allegations have been made against him, where they compare him to some type of street-level drug dealer, which is ridiculous. He`s a doctor. We`re going to fight the charges. And it`s going to come down to medical experts, whether the prescriptions he wrote were appropriate based on the need of the patient. That`s it.
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VELEZ-MITCHELL: So many developments on so many fronts tonight. One stunning new twist is the grand jury indictment of Benoit`s personal doctor after a series of raids on his Georgia office.
Let`s go straight out to reporter Alex Marvez of "The South Florida Sun-Sentinel." Alex, what is the very latest?
ALEX MARVEZ, "SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL": Yes, Dr. Astin having that indictment come down today. And the big new out of this thing to me was the Associated Press story saying that Chris Benoit was prescribed 10 months` worth of steroids every three to four weeks by Dr. Astin for a one- year period. That`s an incredible amount of steroids. It makes you wonder, was Chris Benoit using all those steroids? Was Chris Benoit giving them to some of his friends in the pro wrestling world? An absolutely stunning development. Not to mention that this Dr. Astin apparently prescribed one million doses of controlled substances over a two-year period. That`s an awful lot of stuff.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are absolutely right, and the press release that the feds release was shocking and so colorful, saying -- basically, alleging he`s a dirty doctor and saying he was handing out drugs like they were candy.
Let`s go straight out to Dr. Marc Siegel, who`s an internist and also author of "False Alarm," a former ER doctor, as well, at NYU Bellevue (ph). You`ve been hearing all of this really shocking information, Doctor. Can you try to explain what it all means? Because a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids distributed every three to four weeks to one individual sounds like an awful lot to us civilians.
DR. MARC SIEGEL, INTERNIST, AUTHOR, "FALSE ALARM": Well, I mean, look, Jane, that is really shocking news. Unless somebody has a pituitary problem or adrenal problem, a real, real terrible deficiency, this is absolutely something you would never do. Doctors should not be prescribing because they`re friends of a patient or because a patient is demanding something. We have a Hippocratic oath. We`re not supposed to put our pen to the paper unless it`s something that`s medically indicated. This amount of drugs does not sound like it was indicated at all.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes. And Carlos Ashenoff is a professional wrestler and a friend of Benoit`s. And he goes by the name Conan. Who could forget that, Conan? Carlos Ashenoff, thank you for joining us tonight. I know this is difficult for you because you are a friend and were a friend for a long time of Benoit`s. But something doesn`t add up here. The dates that they`re talking about, where Benoit allegedly received all of these steroids, is smack in the middle of the time where the WWE says that he passed a test this past April. So somebody is not getting the story right. Who do you think it is? What`s your analysis of it?
CARLOS ASHENOFF, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Well, first let me preface the conversation by stating that I hope that my appearance here raise awareness of what`s happening in our industry and brings about change. The wrestling industry is not regulated. There`s no pension plan, no retirement plan, no union. We work the whole year. And you know, in baseball, there was a congressional investigation to alleged steroid usage, and we`ve had actual deaths, and nothing`s happened.
Now, getting back to the question, you know, there`s basically -- WWE, it doesn`t behoove them to take their biggest revenue makers, you know, out of the ring. They`re going to lose money, you know? So obviously, they turned -- you know, they turned a blind eye.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And of course, we have to say that we have made repeated calls to the WWE today seeking their side of the story. We haven`t gotten any comment from them today, but we reiterate we want to hear both sides and all sides of the story. So anybody from the WWE, we want to hear from you, and we`ll keep calling until we get your side of the story.
Let`s go to Mike Brooks, who is here on set with me -- I`m delighted to have him -- CNN law enforcement analyst, former D.C. police officer, for some perspective. Because what I found very odd about all this, Mike, is that we`ve heard in this press release all this talk about Benoit getting all these steroids, but in the actual indictment, it`s two other individuals whose initials are not Benoit`s initials, and it`s not steroids, it`s a bunch of other drugs.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, it`s initials "O.G." and "M.J." But they said in one of the indictments that he had been doing -- all the drugs we`re hearing about, all the steroids, apparently, he had been (INAUDIBLE).
They`re also looking at another pharmacy, the Signature pharmacy in Orlando, because apparently, he was getting mail order steroids from them also. And they have been in the news. It`s not the first time they`ve had some contact.
But I think we`re just seeing a little bit, just a tip of this investigation, Jane. They did two search warrants on his office. They went in, they found out -- found some things they were looking for. Then they went back again because, in my opinion as an investigator, you don`t go back unless you feel like, OK, well, we took a look at this. Let`s go back and take a look at some additional -- because what they found apparently led to something else, and they wanted to go back and get some additional evidence.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Mike, you`re saying it`s not like they didn`t find anything connecting them to Benoit, it`s just that they`re putting their case together and more will be revealed, as they say.
And we`re very delighted to have with us Manny Arora, who is this doctor`s attorney, Dr. Phil Astin`s attorney. Thank you for joining us. This was a very harsh day for your client, sir, bond set at $125,000. Upon release, if he gets released, he must wear an electronic monitoring device and remain at home, only leaving for medical treatment or religious services. And the biggest blow of all, perhaps, he must surrender his license. What do you have to say for your client tonight?
MANNY ARORA, ATTORNEY FOR DR. PHIL ASTIN: Look, this had nothing to do with Chris Benoit`s case. If you read the indictment, there`s nothing mentioned in there. There`s no steroids mentioned in there. They went through his office once, took all the records, all the patient records, looked at them, made a decision that there was a rumor that he was selling Demerol out of the office. So they went back to check to see if there`s any storage of Demerol there. They didn`t find any. They then went to his parents` home, checked there, didn`t find any.
This is a straightforward case -- we`ve had dozens of them before -- where doctors are being prosecuted for allegedly writing false prescriptions or prescriptions without a medical basis. That`s all this case is about. It`s got nothing to do with the wrestler, as the indictment clearly indicates.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are going to unleash the lawyers right now, prosecutor Eleanor Dixon and Alex Sanchez, defense attorney. Please go at it because I would guess, being Mr. Defense Attorney, Alex, you`re going to say he`s some kind of scapegoat.
ALEX SANCHEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think this case has all the ingredients of an absolute publicity nightmare for the DEA. First of all, they smash open his house or his office in front of cameras. Don`t you think they were saying to themselves, We better go in there and we had better find some information linking this guy to the death of Benoit? So go in there. They search the place. They find nothing. And all of a sudden, they find some alleged information linking him to some sales of other individuals who only go by initials. And you know, it begins to raise a question in my mind about whether or not the DA is playing some type of catchup game here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Or Eleanor Dixon, is it possible, because the man who was believed to be responsible for these deaths killed himself, there`s really nobody to blame and there`s all of this outrage across the nation, and somebody`s going to pay for it.
ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: Well, but you`ve got to remember that those officers had to have probable cause to get a search warrant to go into the house. And there was evidence that they had that Chris Benoit was linked to this doctor. So I think they did the right thing. They went in, and guess what they found? Evidence of a crime. And he was indicted by the federal government. You know, it doesn`t get any easier than that. Obviously, something was going on here at this doctor`s office
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Mike Brooks, they also want him to forfeit all his profits and property. How would that work? He`d literally lose his office?
BROOKS: Yes, just like if you were arrested, you`re pulled over, you`re found with drugs in your car, you`re going to forfeit your car. It`s all having to do with asset forfeiture laws. And if they can prove that the money he made by the sale of these alleged illegal narcotics and steroids -- if they can prove that he made profit off of those and then used those profits, they can take everything that he has that they believe that -- or is linked to that.
So what they`ll do is, the DEA, along with the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS criminal investigation division, they`re going to go back and they`re going to take a look at all the money he`s made, and then they`ll decide exactly what assets that they will be able to take as -- that he might have made off the sale of these drugs.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, I got to say, thinking about all of this, there`s nobody better to comment than somebody who`s actually been in the ring, been in this world, and we have him tonight with us. His name is Conan, also known as Carlos Ashenoff. And I want to ask you a tough question, Carlos. You`ve expressed doubts about the WWE`s sincerity in this matter. Have you ever taken steroids? Tell us about it, if you have.
ASHENOFF: Yes, I have. But all you have to do is watch their program. They have a show on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Look at the condition the guys are in. There`s no way you can maintain that condition year-round if you`re not on them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re saying that -- and this was something I wondered, as just a person who`s seen these guys in action. They seem larger, physically larger than normal human beings. And you`re saying if somebody`s physically larger than a normal human being and their muscles are bulging to a point that they seem almost superhuman, they`re on steroids?
ASHENOFF: Well, do you see normal people walking around like that on the streets year-round? It`s impossible to achieve or attain that look without steroids. I mean, I`m pretty well versed on them because I used them for a long time because in this industry, there`s a premium on that look. You`re rewarded for looking that way. And you know, it`s just a shame because now we`re starting to find out that all these people, you know, all these wrestlers are dying due to enlarged hearts. It hardens arteries. You`re having all these people that are -- you know, all these wrestlers that are dying...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What did you feel when you were doing it? Happened to you physically?
ASHENOFF: Oh, I got bigger, stronger, you know, more aggressive. You know...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you get into fights?
ASHENOFF: No, not really. I mean, you know, I didn`t have that `roid rage that you hear about, but you know, I have seen people that have gone into `roid rages.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Luis Fernando Llosa, senior investigative reporter for "Sports Illustrated," there`s obviously some kind of disconnect here because the WWE is saying that he passed the test in April, which is the very time that the feds are now saying he was being supplied anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids were found in his home. My question to you is, what is the testing? Because they say he passed this test. What kind of tests are they? Are they reliable? Who`s monitoring them? Is there any oversight?
LUIS FERNANDO LLOSA, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Well, yes, there are different factors involved here. One is if somebody gets advance warning of a test -- I`m not saying he did, but you can give advanced warning of a test. The test can be for a specific steroid but not cover all steroids. There are masking agents that can be used to cover up the usage of the steroids. You can go off them, if you have that advanced warning I was talking about. There are many ways to beat a test.
I`m not saying that Benoit did or didn`t, but the quantity of steroids that he has is phenomenal. The question that was raised earlier is, was -- is it possible that somebody like him to be supplying other people with steroids? I mean, that`s a lot of steroids.
And what the WWE told me on the evening that this news was breaking out is that his own personal physician was prescribing steroids to him for a treatment and that that treatment was a low testosterone level. Well, the amount of steroids he was receiving, if this information is accurate, has nothing to do with somebody having a low testosterone level. That`s a truckload.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, it is a truckload, and it`s a huge shocker. I mean, what a shocking press release today.
Mary in Pennsylvania, you are one of the callers. The phone lines are lighting up. What`s your question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for taking my call. My question is, Chris was at the doctor`s office that Friday before he went home and killed his family. Is it a possibility that the doctor gave him something to cause all this rage?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go to Mike Brooks because you`ve been tracking this. And obviously, they did not specifically charge him with this, but they keep talking about all the evidence they have.
BROOKS: They say they have a lot of evidence, Jane, and it`s going to take the toxicology report as part of the medical examiner`s report. That could take several weeks, but that will be the proof of, you know, was he on something? Did the doctor -- you know, to answer her question, you know, what -- did he prescribe something that would put him into this rage? And I`ve talked to some people who`ve said that they -- yes, there are -- there is `roid rage from using steroids. Bureaucracy was he given something else? That remains to be seen. And we`ll find out. It could take a couple weeks. Toxicology test results are going to be the key in this investigation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, we`re going to get to the next huge shocker, which is this report and a news release by the local DA`s office saying that they`ve investigated this whole notion that this child, the 7- year-old boy who died, Daniel, had suffered from this mental disability called fragile X syndrome, and they`re not finding any evidence of it at all, which is a stunner because the entire media of the United States has been discussing fragile X syndrome now for the past week, based on some statements by the WWE that they believed that the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Benoit, were arguing over how to care for the child, given that he had fragile X syndrome. What a stunning development. We`re going to get right into it.
To tonight`s "Case Alert." Police release surveillance video in the search for the parents of an abandoned toddler left outside a Delaware hospital. The video shows the little boy shopping with his parents at a local New Jersey grocery store. The outing is the last known sighting of 27-year-old Amy Giordano, and just two days before little Michael DiGiralamo is left alone at the hospital. The biological dad, Rosario Roy DiGiralamo, is now a person of interesting in Giordano`s disappearance and wanted on charges of abandoning the little boy. If you have any information, please call the Delaware police, 302-834-2620, or New Jersey state police at 609-594-5000.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last few times I saw Chris, physically, he looked like he was as good -- you know, still had some good years -- a lot of good years left in him. But I will say that the very last time I watched Chris wrestle, which is only a few weeks ago, I made a mental note in my head when I was watching him work that he didn`t seem to have that light in his eyes. He didn`t have the passion in the match that I was watching.
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VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace. The parents of murder victim Nancy Benoit say a memorial service for Nancy and 7-year-old Daniel will be held on Saturday, July 14, at 1:00 PM in Daytona Beach, Florida. The attorney for Nancy`s parents confirmed they are considering civil lawsuits, but they`re waiting to see where the evidence leads them.
Given that her husband, her suspected killer, is dead, I want to ask the attorneys who are the likely candidates for a lawsuit? Let`s give it to Eleanor Dixon, prosecutor. Who are the likely candidates for a lawsuit?
DIXON: I would say the first place I`d look is the wrestling federation, and perhaps say tacitly, if it comes back that there`s steroids in his system, perhaps they approved of this in some manner, supplied it in some manner. Right now, we don`t have the doctor linked to Benoit, but then again, there`s still some more digging to do in the doctor`s records.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist and author of "Till Death Do Us Part," it`s not just drugs we`re talking about her. And of course, the toxicology reports on Mr. Benoit are not back yet, so we`re still speculating about the possible steroid use in that term. But there`s also the alcohol factor. Ten empty beer cans were found in the home, as well as an empty bottle of wine right near where his body was found. What does that tell you?
ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, you know, when you use steroids or abuse steroids, it interferes with mood regulation, so it`s not uncommon for steroid abuse to cause depression, rage, paranoia, irritability, mania. So it`s very possible he was kind of stuck in this abusive cycle and using the alcohol to self-medicate in some way, and he was just an absolute mess.
And I do think that the wrestling industry should take some responsibility if they are encouraging and supporting this type of, you know, steroid abuse. It`s like the athletes are being exploited because of the finances that they bring in, and that`s a problem.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And you know, when they say you combine drugs and alcohol, it`s not one plus one equals two, it`s one plus one equals 15 or 20.
We`ve got the phone lines lit up. Hang in there. We`ll get to you in a moment.
To tonight`s "Case Alert." The prime suspect in the death of Jessie Davis, a young Ohio mom who was 9 months pregnant and just weeks from giving birth to a second child, waives a preliminary hearing today. The case against Bobby Cutts, Jr., now goes before a grand jury. Cutts, the baby`s biological dad, accused of murdering Davis and her unborn child inside Davis`s home. The grand jury will now determine what charges should be filed.
The case of a second suspect, Cutts`s alleged accomplice, Myisha Ferrell, also headed to a grand jury, Ferrell facing charges of obstructing justice, and she is accused of helping Cutts hide Davis`s body. Sadly, Jessie Davis was due to deliver her baby girl, who was to be named Chloe, tomorrow.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wrestling world itself is probably more shocked and dismayed because they`ve been living this story on and off for a decade now. Horrible as this crime was, up until, you know, Monday morning, Chris Benoit was one of the most loved guys in the business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace, as we try to make sense of an incomprehensible triple death, a famous, handsome, successful pro wrestler who is believed to have killed his wife, child and himself. The whole country outraged and baffled.
The phone lines lit up. Kimberly from Alabama, your question, ma`am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What kind of punishment could the doctor face if it is proven that the drugs he prescribed caused him to snap and do this to his family?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, it`s a good question for Mike Brooks. What are the penalties, and can he be criminally prosecuted in those terms?
BROOKS: It`s going to take a lot of evidence to prosecute him on that particular charge (INAUDIBLE) to say, OK, was he responsible for the death of these people and his suicide? But I think again, Jane, it`s going to go back -- it`s going to come back to the toxicology report. What exactly was in his system at the time of his death? What was in his wife`s system, and what was in his son`s system? You know, there was talk early on that he may have given them some drugs, too. So it`s going to take the toxicology report of all three to decide whether or not charges will be filed.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, I think there is also going to be increasing calls for a congressional investigation. When we come back, let`s talk about that because a lot of people are saying, Well, should it just be about professional wrestling, or should it be about our drug culture, our prescription drug culture, where we`ve got these doctors prescribing things illegally?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memorial outside the Benoit family home continues to grow, as more fans come by wanting to pay their respects, but also seeking answers to their questions, especially what caused this tragedy, and could it have been avoided?
Chris Benoit worked out here in this Peachtree City gym just a day before investigators say he murdered his wife, Nancy. Sources say the gym has surveillance video of Benoit inside, doing his usual workout and socializing with other people. Fayette County investigators say they are aware of this video and could be interested in it, if for nothing else to observe Benoit`s state of mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace. A heart wrenching double murder-suicide, pro wrestling great Chris Benoit is believed to have murdered his wife and their 7-year-old son, Daniel, before wrapping a cord from a weightlifting machine around his own neck and releasing 240 pounds of weight, thereby committing suicide. Now, another really bizarre twist: Police say they know who the person is who went onto Wikipedia, that Internet encyclopedia, and anonymously wrote that Nancy Benoit had died more than a dozen hours before police found the bodies.
Mike Brooks, why are police now calling this mini-investigation an unbelievable hindrance to them?
MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE: That`s a good question, because this is a totally separate investigation. What did this guy know? Who did he know? What connection did he have with Benoit or his wife? That`s my question, as an investigator.
OK, you knew this information. You put it on here. What brought you to put the information on there? And I tell you, I don`t know why they would say it`s a hindrance. To me, it would just be putting together part of the timeline to see whether or not this person is involved in any way whatsoever.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are so many aspects of this case that we`ve got to get through. Alex Marvez of the "South Florida Sun Sentinel," then there`s the whole question of whether the son was mentally disabled. The district attorney`s released this shocking press release that said they investigated it, they talked to educators, they talked to doctors, they talked to everybody, they cannot find any evidence that Benoit`s son had Fragile X syndrome. What do you know?
ALEX MARVEZ, "SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL": Yes, this is what`s so amazing about this, because you talk to friends of the Benoit family, some of them, and they thought that there was something a little bit askew with Daniel Benoit, you know, that he was a shy, reclusive kid and showed maybe some of the symptoms of having at least a mild form of autism, maybe indeed Fragile X. The reality is that, if he didn`t have it, it just puts another horrific twist to this that Chris Benoit could murder his son who was actually mentally healthy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but what about the WWE? In their statement -- and let`s go to Luis Fernando Llosa with this, a senior investigative reporter at "Sports Illustrated" -- the WWE said, quote, "They were constantly struggling" -- meaning the Benoits -- "with the difficulties of raising a child who, from all indications, may well have had Fragile X syndrome. It`s very difficult to raise a child this way. There`s a lot of guilt." Somebody`s wrong.
LUIS FERNANDO LLOSA, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": Yes, that`s a good question. I mean, I don`t really know specifically of who -- I`d heard that perhaps the WWE had learned about this problem that the kid had from Benoit himself, when he was asking for some time off, but, frankly, that`s a good question. What I`m really interested, though, is what you mentioned earlier, about the need for a congressional hearing and the whole issue of doctors prescribing on the Internet human growth hormone and steroids. And there was in the case that we were looking into earlier, an Arizona doctor who the D.A. was investigating, who allegedly prescribed 3,879, wrote that many prescriptions in a five-month period. That same doctor, in our investigation, we linked to three pro wrestlers, one of them Eddie Guerrero, who died of an enlarged heart in 2005. I mean, it`s a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but let me ask Dr. Marc Siegel, who is an internist and author of "False Alarm" and former E.R. doctor at Bellevue, if there`s a congressional investigation, should it be about pro wrestling or should it be about our entire culture, where we have so many doctors prescribing unnecessary drugs to their patients and basically turning into glorified pushers?
DR. MARC SIEGEL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU: Oh, I agree with that completely, Jane. What it needs to be is a look at why a doctor is prescribing medicines in the first place for an indication that doesn`t exist.
You know, as Dr. Ludwig said before, you start with one medicine, then you need another one to counteract it. If you`re given anabolic steroids, you can`t sleep at night, so then you have to drink alcohol to sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle. And then there`s certain doctors, perhaps like this Dr. Astin, if you look at his indictment, he`s -- one patient is getting 120 Percocet, bang, another one is getting 120 Xanax. I mean, we should really look very hard at who is prescribing what for whom. If you start seeing a lot of muscles building up, that`s not because there`s a medical problem. That`s because somebody is doing something recreationally, and doctors are participating in this way too often.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist, does it go way beyond steroids? I mean, we heard all these other drugs that were mentioned, Percocet, Xanax, Lorcet, Vicoprofen, all sorts of names. I don`t even know what half of them mean. Are we a culture of syrup- swizzling and pill-popping, script-writing addicts?
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, one would think so. You know, I would hope not, but we are not a culture that embraces tolerating a broad range of feelings and learning how to deal with the more difficult feelings in life. And for those people who are really afraid to look at themselves, they might be more inclined to just medicate everything away so they can feel good.
What we are is -- and especially in the wrestling world -- it appears to be a culture of bigger is better, and it doesn`t matter how you get there. It`s just important that you`re the best, and that`s a problem. We have to somehow incorporate integrity into our culture.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and I think that if there is a congressional investigation -- and I definitely think there should be -- it should be across the board, beyond professional wrestling, to all these Internet sites that are prescribing all these drugs, that people can call and get a doctor online apparently, which is a complete shocker, that people are using drugs in greater quantities than they should. They`re self- medicating with these drugs. There should be a congressional investigation into everybody.
I think it`s fair to say that all of us know at least a couple of people that are using drugs, prescription drugs, in a way that we wonder, "Hmm, is that really necessary?" The phone lines are lighting up. Leeann in Missouri, your question?
CALLER: Yes, I`d like to know, do you think maybe now this will prompt the federal government to step in and regulate this sport for drugs, like it has others? And if so, how will it affect wrestling?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Alex Marvez, "South Florida Sun Sentinel," has been studying this industry for a long time. How would a congressional investigation affect pro wrestling?
MARVEZ: I mean, I think it would embarrass it. The whole thing is that these wrestlers have been dying of steroid abuse, at least maybe as a contributing factor to their bad health, for some time. You look at the rash of young deaths in this industry, yet fans continue to tune in and they continue to watch the product.
I think the way that WWE could really address this issue is just by not pushing wrestlers that look like they`re on steroids. This is not an athletic performance, so to speak. It is sports entertainment. It is pre- scripted. They can decide who gets a push and who doesn`t. So don`t make giving a guy a push on the basis of anabolic steroids. If you look that big, don`t do it. Don`t run that risk.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Carlos Ashenoff, also known as Conan, according to some claims and reports, it goes beyond steroids into other drugs. The "Daily News" is saying that some of the people who are engaged in the pro wrestling world have been known to use GHB, which is also known as the date rape drug. Have you ever heard anything about this?
CARLOS ASHENOFF, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Yes, that`s like liquid ecstasy. That was very, very popular in the `90s, and it helps you get ripped. It gives you a buzz. I mean, it`s very hard because, like I said before, you`re on the road the whole year, so you`re hurt, you`re depressed, you need something to pick you up, something to bring you down, something to keep you strong, so it`s a lot of recreational drugs, steroids and pain killers.
What Vince McMahon needs to do is actually fine people, suspend people or fire people if he has to, if he finds them on steroids, like Alex Marvez says, or pain killer, because they`re just giving us a lot of lip service. After Eddie Guerrero died last year, who was like a brother to me, you know, they started implementing steroid testing again to make sure they could quash or quell any media uproar, but they picked a couple patsies, and that was it. I mean, he`s got to do something about this. He`s got to be responsible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but when you say that they instituted this, are you saying that these tests are meaningless? Because Benoit passed the test in April, at the very time -- and I`m repeating myself, but this is a crucial fact -- at the very time that authorities are saying he was being given huge quantities of steroids.
ASHENOFF: Well, like I said earlier, you know, it doesn`t benefit them to take some of their biggest revenue makers out of the ring, so they just basically police themselves. If anybody`s showing up late or anybody showing any signs of drug abuse, they put them in rehab.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me jump in here. What is the test? I mean, what exactly do they do to test that is so questionable at this point?
ASHENOFF: It`s a urine test, but, you know, they just pick a couple people, make an example out of them, and everybody else polices themselves.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you saying people use the whizzinator? I don`t want to tell anybody what that is, but they can use their imagination to figure it out. You can fake a urine test. It`s called a whizzinator.
ASHENOFF: Yes, right, I know exactly what it is. The bottom line is you don`t have to, because they never bust the top guys. That`s just it. You know, they make an example of a couple people so the media doesn`t say that they`re not doing anything, and that`s what`s happening. They give a lot of lip service.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A preliminary review of Dr. Astin`s prescription- writing activity indicates that he authorized approximately 1 million dosage units of various pharmaceutical controlled substances in the past two years, including significant quantities of an injectable anabolic steroid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allegations have been made against him where they compare him to some type of street-level drug dealer, which is ridiculous. There`s nothing sensational (INAUDIBLE) about this case. It`s straightforward. The records will show what pills were prescribed. They were very specific about what pills they think were improperly prescribed. I don`t know who it is that`s giving them the information where they think it`s improperly done. We will look to have it reviewed by good experts from universities to see if the documentation and the prescription is appropriate. And that`s how we`re going to defend this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace. As we continue to dig deep into the tragic double murder-suicide of the Benoit family, a flood of disturbing, new information coming in from the indictment of Benoit`s personal doctor, to word from the local D.A.`s office that the little boy, Daniel, may not have been mentally or physically disabled after all. That shocking statement seems to contradict what an attorney for the WWE first said, and I`m going to repeat it again. We want to hear the WWE`s side of the story. We`ve been trying to reach them, and we offer them a chance to come on and give their side of the story.
But Alex Marvez, with the "South Florida Sun Sentinel," you spoke to the WWE apparently about this issue. What did they say about the little boy`s mental condition?
MARVEZ: Yes, I spoke to Jerry McDevitt, the WWE attorney, last week and he said that, you know, Nancy Benoit had called Dr. Astin on Thursday before the murder was done and had said, hey, you know, we`re having problems with our little boy, then went ahead and said Friday that Chris Benoit, the purpose of his visit to see Dr. Astin was to go ahead and talk about Daniel Benoit. And at that time, Jerry McDevitt told me that Dr. Astin prescribed Chris Benoit some Zoloft.
Now, whether or not Chris Benoit took the Zoloft or not, I don`t know, but there`s a litany of prescription drugs found in that house. If you combine these types of drugs with anabolic steroids and then alcohol, I don`t know what type of mental picture you`re painting there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`re also talking about what this little boy might have experienced. Let`s go to the attorney for Dr. Phil Astin, Manny Arora. And, of course, we remind our viewers that Dr. Phil Astin has not been convicted of anything. He deserves the presumption of innocence, but he has been arrested on some very serious charges.
Dr. Arora, what do you know about this boy and your client, Dr. Astin, and what he may or may not have prescribed to the child?
MANNY ARORA, ATTORNEY FOR PHIL ASTIN: I`m not aware of what the issues are with the young boy, but what I want to emphasize -- what I hear the panel talking about is somehow that this doctor is responsible for steroids and whatnot. There`s nothing in the indictment that puts it there.
If you look at the actual indictment, the way it`s charged, it`s approximately every three to six months one of two patients that are listed are getting these drugs. That`s a regular visit from a regular patient every three to four to six months. They`re elderly patients, and the whole issue should be a doctor needs to review these to determine whether the amount of pills being given was appropriate.
The other thing the panelists don`t want to talk about is the fact that a lot of these prescriptions didn`t have dates on them. Therefore, the pharmacies would not have actually filled out those prescriptions, so the numbers can be added up, since 2004, come out to about 3,000 pills for two patients. If you look at any competent doctor that`s dealing with pain management of elderly patients, perhaps some with cancer, that`s not uncommon. We`ve already done our homework on those issues.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, defense attorney Alex Sanchez I believe agrees with you to the extent that, while everybody`s talking about his connection with Benoit and the fact that Benoit visited this doctor on the very afternoon before he apparently killed his wife, it`s not in the actual indictment.
ALEX SANCHEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I mean, just because he visited the doctor -- these wrestlers get injured all the time, and so they have good reason to go to the doctors to determine what, if anything, is wrong with them.
But the question I have is, where were the authorities for the many, many months or even years? Isn`t there some authority over there in Georgia that determines whether or not some physician is over-prescribing medication? And how come this information only came out after this Benoit tragedy? And doesn`t the authorities bear some responsibility for not intervening before this date?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Eleanor Dixon, what say you?
ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: Well, they sound like defense lawyers to me. But what they missed, the point is he`s charged with distributing these medications for something other than a legitimate medical purpose. And in a way, thank goodness they caught him for this, if true, because Chris Benoit was linked to him. That`s how they got to the doctor in the first place. So I don`t think we`re sitting here talking about Mr. Innocent. Something finally was pointed his way.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Dr. Marc Siegel, I have to ask you about this one horrifying aspect about this. There were reports that the little boy allegedly -- and nobody`s been in the room except the authorities, so this is just reports -- allegedly had track marks. The little boy allegedly had track marks on his arm and there was a question as to whether he was getting human growth hormone. Given that now the D.A. is saying he can`t find any evidence that this child had Fragile X, it`s incomprehensible. What do you make of it?
SIEGEL: That`s really a horrifying report. You know, we have to be clear about this Fragile X syndrome. One in 4,000 males get this. And it`s not an iffy proposition. It`s really clear. I mean, it`s the number- one cause of an inherited mental retardation in the world, and that`s the protein that`s involved there. And if he has that, he has a one in five chance of being autistic.
There is no real treatment for this, so he wouldn`t be getting injected human growth hormone. I mean, there`s treatment for the symptoms of Fragile X, but you really can`t cure it. So it`s going to have to be cleared up over the next few weeks, and I`m sure it will be, whether he really had Fragile X or not. But when males get it, they get it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. Well, I guess hopefully the tests will show one way or another. Mitra in New York, your question?
CALLER: Hi, I`m from New York, and in New York prescriptions are regulated. So how did the pharmacy allow the doctor to prescribe such a large volume of steroids, on multiple occasions, to one individual?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, what do you think?
BROOKS: I`ll tell you what, that`s a great question, and I think that`s what the investigation all comes down to. They went back. They`re going in to take a look to see exactly, you know, what he was prescribing, to whom, when and how much, but it`s a great question. And, you know, I really can`t tell you. It sounds like he wasn`t doing the right thing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Carlos Ashenoff, Conan, you said you`ve seen guys with `roid rage. What does it look like?
ASHENOFF: Well, you know, they get uncontrollable rage. They get very violent. They want to fight. They want to break stuff and, you know, just very aggressive.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but everybody said that Chris Benoit was soft- spoken. Everybody says this, that he was such a sweet guy who wouldn`t hurt a fly.
ASHENOFF: Well, he was. You know, I don`t think it was `roid rage, because, you know, what he did sounded a little bit more deliberate, and it was over a three-day span, and `roid rage is kind of just bouts and fits of rage for, you know, five minutes, ten minutes, whatever. But he was very kind, you know, very uncharacteristic of him. I would have never thought that he would have done anything like this. He was a gentleman.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think? I mean, you`re saying that it`s a big problem, that things need to be cleaned up, but now you`re saying, well, you don`t think it`s `roid rage?
ASHENOFF: Well, I`m saying...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do you think he did it?
ASHENOFF: I have absolutely no idea. He obviously snapped, but the bottom line is, is that, you know, wrestlers are taking a lot of pain killers, steroids and recreational drugs, and it needs to be cleaned up and needs to be regulated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The personal physician of pro wrestler Chris Benoit turned himself in today to face a federal drug charge. Dr. Phil Astin has been charged with a single count of improperly prescribing medication and is expected to appear at a hearing later today. Two raids have been conducted on Dr. Astin`s office since Benoit and his family were found dead last month. A Georgia prosecutor says he has no plans to file criminal charges in Benoit`s death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace. And we`ve been talking about this crisis in the world of professional wrestling. We`re very happy to have with us tonight Conan, also known as Carlos Ashenoff.
You`ve admitted to us that you`ve taken steroids and now you have health problems. Tell us about it.
ASHENOFF: Yes, it wasn`t from the steroids. It was more from the pain killers, due to the fact that I had to use pain killers, because I needed a hip replacement operation, and the company that I was with, TNA, wouldn`t pay for it. I had to get on pain killers and, due to the continued use of that, it shut down my kidneys, and now I have to get a kidney transplant.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, I`m so sorry to hear that. When is that coming up?
ASHENOFF: Hopefully next week. But let me tell you something. You had asked me before what I thought the thing was with Chris Benoit. There seems to be a correlation between undiagnosed concussions and football players who, after they retire, they commit suicide. He might have had an undiagnosed concussion.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s as good a guess as any. And, again, when we get the toxicology results back, we will know for sure whether he was on steroids and whether it was `roid rage or whatever it was, but we do know one thing. It was a horrible tragedy, and we as a nation need to look at this issue of unnecessary drug use.
Tonight, let`s stop to remember Senior Airman William "Willy" Newman, just 23, from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, killed in Iraq. An explosive specialist, Newman gave his life dismantling a bomb to save nearby Iraqi civilians. He loved sketching, reading, break dancing, attending church, and Korean food. Newman dreamed of writing a book, finishing his college studies for a career in medicine or engineering. A newlywed, Newman leaves behind his grieving widow, so young. The two were just two weeks away from a belated honeymoon in Maui, and leaves he behind his grieving parents, Matthew and Gerri. William Newman, an American hero.
We want to thank all of our guests tonight for their insights and thanks to you at home for tracking these very important cases with us. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace. Hope to see you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, have a wonderful and a safe evening.