HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The head of a foundation that works to educate young people about the dangers of anabolic steroids said Wednesday he fears former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon won't be an ally if she wins a U.S. Senate race in Connecticut.
Don Hooton, president and founder of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, told reporters in a telephone conference call that the Republican nominee and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO hasn't taken a strong stance against steroid abuse.
"At the very least, I just don't see her being a supporter and recognizing the importance of this topic," Hooton said. "If we can't figure out whether or not these drugs are dangerous, I don't know how we go to Congress in the end and become a leader on a topic that she needs to be a leader on."
McMahon, who is running against Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for the seat held by Sen. Chris Dodd, has made comments in interviews about how she believes the long-term health effects of steroid usage are still unknown and there have not been a lot of conclusive studies.
Her campaign spokesman said Wednesday that steroids are illegal and WWE prohibits their use and has a drug testing and enforcement policy in place. He said McMahon believes "steroids can have long-term physical and psychiatric effects and that risk is exacerbated by abuse."
Hooton, who said he's a registered Republican who voted for President George W. Bush and would be proud to do so again, said he came forward with his concerns about McMahon because his foundation plans to launch a campaign to encourage Congress and the administration to devote more funding to educating young people about steroids.
He accused McMahon of using her company's drug testing policy "as a shield to criticism" in the face of what he called overwhelming circumstantial evidence of ongoing abuse of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
"I'm just suggesting that the common sense test would leave me to believe any way that we haven't eliminated the use of anabolic steroids in professional wrestling," Hooton said. "I might be wrong, but I don't think so."
Dr. Joseph Maroon, the WWE's medical director, said Hooton is not totally familiar with the company's wellness program or "he hasn't read what the wellness program is all about."
Maroon, who has worked for WWE for two and a half years, said WWE's talent are tested five to seven times a year. If they test positive for any banned substance, he said, they face immediate disciplinary action, which includes being withheld from competition and pay. There are stronger penalties for second and third offenses, including firings.
"We're as drug-free as it is possible to be drug-free in terms of the use of anabolic steroids," he said.
Maroon, who said he works with many professional athletes including football players, said there are natural ways for athletes and wrestlers to appear more muscular.
"Because they're big, that doesn't mean they're on drugs," Maroon said.
During the final debate for the Senate seat Tuesday, Blumenthal brought up how seven wrestlers, all of whom the WWE said no longer worked for the company, have died since McMahon began her Senate race about a year ago. Blumenthal has made a point of accusing McMahon of not caring about the health and safety of her workers.
Robert Zimmerman, a WWE spokesman, said none of the wrestlers died from causes associated with steroid abuse. He offered Hooton the chance to meet with WWE's third party doctors to learn more about the company's testing programs.
Hooton's foundation is named after his 17-year-old son, Taylor, who committed suicide in 2003. Hooton said doctors believe his son's depression was fueled by anabolic steroids, which the teen, a high school baseball player, took to become more muscular.