United States v. McMahon et al.
CourtUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Full case nameUnited States v. McMahon et al.
DecidedJuly 23, 1994 (1994-07-23)
Citation(s)9:93-cr-01276
Case opinions
Jury found Vince McMahon not guilty
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting1

United States v. McMahon et al (9:93-cr-01276) is a 1994 United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York criminal court case brought against Vince McMahon, chairman of the World Wrestling Federation on suspicion of supplying illegal anabolic steroids to his professional wrestlers. The jury found McMahon not guilty on July 23, 1994.[1][2]

Background

Vince McMahon was the chairman of Titan Sports Inc., the parent company of the World Wrestling Federation, a professional wrestling promotion.[3] In the late 1980s, the WWF had undergone a large expansion from being a National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) regional territorial wrestling promotion into an independent national one.

In 1991, Dr George Zahorian, a Pennsylvania doctor who had worked as a ringside doctor for the WWF, had been convicted of illegally supplying anabolic steroids. At his trial, it was revealed that Zahorian had supplied steroids to the WWF and their wrestlers, specifically to Vince McMahon's office at Titan Towers.[4] The WWF CEO Linda McMahon, married to Vince, had sent a memo in 1989 advising that Zahorian should not be used by the WWF prior to his arrest and trial on the grounds of suspicion of illicit steroids distribution.[5] In 1992, prior to being indicted, Vince McMahon closed down the World Bodybuilding Federation that he owned.[6]

As a result of Zahorian co-operating with prosecutors, McMahon was indicted in 1993.[7] The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Zachary W. Carter charged McMahon with conspiring to distribute steroids, possession of illegal steroids with intent to distribute and embezzlement for allegedly using money from Titan Sports Inc to purchase illegal steroids.[8]

Prior to the trial, McMahon had lost a civil lawsuit brought by Jesse "The Body" Ventura over $800,000 owed in royalties for Ventura's color commentary on WWF programming.[9] The case was set to be heard at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York rather than in McMahon's and the WWF's home state of Connecticut. This was because the prosecutors alleged that the distribution of steroids occurred in Long Island.[10] The trial was due to start in June 1994 but was delayed until the following month.[9][11] Ted Turner, the owner of the WWF's rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW), suggested that he would try to get CNN to cover the trial for Turner Broadcasting System.[12]

Trial

WWF chairman Vince McMahon was found not guilty.
WWF chairman Vince McMahon was found not guilty.

The United States government brought six charges against McMahon; however, three of the six were thrown out of court before the full trial.[8][13][14] The three that remained were for two counts of distributing steroids and one of conspiracy to distribute steroids.[13] The case was heard by Judge Jacob Mishler. The prosecution alleged that McMahon was in charge of distribution of illegal steroids to WWF wrestlers; they also charged that McMahon had required wrestlers to take steroids while they were in the WWF. Appearing as the prosecution's main witness was Hulk Hogan, who had been the WWF's biggest star during the expansion and was working for WCW at the time of the trial.[15] Testifying under immunity from prosecution, Hogan said that while he had taken steroids previously under his own prescription for medical purposes and received them from Zahorian with his fanmail and paychecks, McMahon had never asked him to take any nor bought any on his behalf.[16][17]

Eleven wrestlers, including Hogan, were called to testify by the prosecution.[14] No other wrestlers called to the stand attested that McMahon had supplied them with steroids apart from Nailz. Nailz claimed that McMahon had pressured him into taking steroids to make him bigger.[4] However, McMahon's defense attorney argued that Nailz was a hostile witness as he had been fired from the WWF previously and was disgruntled and looking for revenge.[18] Nailz contradicted himself during his testimony by stating that he had no animosity towards McMahon but later answered in the affirmative that he hated McMahon.[19]

McMahon's legal team did not enter a defense.[8] McMahon's lawyer stated he had only had one discussion with Zahorian about steroids and that was over McMahon's concerns about the health of his wrestlers.[2] Judge Mishler dismissed the distribution charges on the grounds that the prosecution had provided insufficient evidence that they occurred within the court's jurisdiction.[14] The jury deliberated for sixteen hours on the conspiracy charge before pronouncing a "not guilty" verdict.[8] McMahon stated that he had used steroids but before they became illegal in 1991 under the Controlled Substances Act.[8] McMahon declared his company drug-free and the WWF brought in a tough independent drugs-testing policy following this. Any WWF wrestler caught with drugs would be fired, as occurred a year later when Crush was arrested for being in possession of steroids and marijuana in Hawaii, and was fired by the WWF as a result.[20]

Consequences

Zahorian was sentenced the three years in prison after his conviction. By 2010, he had resumed practicing medicine in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.[21]

After the trial, the WWF retained their drug-testing policy brought in as a result of the investigation and even used it in their Billionaire Ted skits on WWF programming to make the point that WCW did not have one.[22] However, according to Linda, they suspended it in 1996 due to cost.[23] The WWF also started promoting smaller wrestlers rather than the muscular ones that they had since the 1980s.[24] In 2003, the trial was used as a part of angle for a feud between Hogan and McMahon which culminated in them having a wrestling match at WrestleMania XIX which was won by Hogan.[25]

During Linda McMahon's 2010 United States Senate campaign, the steroid trial was used by her political opponents to attack her,[26] even though she had nothing to do with it.[23]

Media portrayals

The trial was the focus of an episode of the third season of the Viceland pro wrestling docuseries Dark Side of the Ring.[27] On July 26, 2021, it was reported that a television series adaptation of McMahon's life was in development by WWE Studios and Blumhouse Television. Titled The United States of America vs. Vince McMahon, the series will be a fictionalized version of the court case.[28][29][30]

References

  1. ^ "USA v. McMahon, et al :: New York Eastern District Court :: Criminal Case No. 9:93-cr-01276, Judge Jacob Mishler presiding". Plainsite.org. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "A Promoter Of Wrestling Is Acquitted". The New York Times. July 23, 1994. Archived from the original on March 19, 2018. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  3. ^ "United States of America against Vince McMahon and Titan Sports Inc" (PDF). The Day. December 7, 1994. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Nailz the Wrestler Testifies He Was Told to Use Steroids". The New York Times. July 12, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  5. ^ "McMahon warned steroid doctor of investigation". The Day. April 9, 2010. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  6. ^ Acosta, Carlos (July 22, 2019). "Vince McMahon and the steroid scandal, 25 years later". Super Luchas. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  7. ^ "W.W.F.'s McMahon Indicted". The New York Times. November 19, 1993. Archived from the original on October 2, 2010. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e "WWF guru picks himself up off the mat". The Windsor Star. February 1, 1995. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ a b ""The Body" puts a legal slam on Vince McMahon". News-Journal. May 5, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Wrestling Promoter Fights Steroid Charges". The New York Times. April 28, 1994. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  11. ^ "Hulk Hogan to take the witness stand vs. McMahon". News-Journal. June 13, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Ted Turner says the darndest things...". Daily News. July 12, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ a b "McMahon's steroid trial will open Tuesday". The Miami Herald. July 3, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ a b c "Pro Wrestling chief found not guilty of steroid charges". The Salina Journal. July 23, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ Murphy, Justin (July 1, 2011). "Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair: The Feud That Never Was". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  16. ^ "Hulk Hogan, on Witness Stand, Tells of Steroid Use in Wrestling". The New York Times. July 15, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  17. ^ "Hulk Hogan's Testimony from the WWF's 1994 Steroid Trial". Angelfire.com. Archived from the original on August 2, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  18. ^ "The Forgotten Steroid Trial That Almost Brought Down Vince McMahon". Vice. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  19. ^ "Promoter cleared of steroid charges". Asbury Park Press. July 23, 1994. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ "Crush arrested". The Miami Herald. April 2, 1995. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Thrush, Glenn (April 9, 2010). "Memo: McMahon tipped steroid doctor". Politico. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  22. ^ "Eric Bischoff On Why He Called Vince McMahon Over "Billionaire Ted" Skits During Monday Night Wars". Wrestling Inc. January 31, 2021. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Lambert, Ben (June 19, 2010). "Steroid stain lingers over Linda McMahon's WWE; Conn. U.S. Senate candidate may take hit over drug controversy (documents, video)". New Hampshire Register. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  24. ^ Sharp, Jamie. "Pinned Down: Labor Law and Professional Wrestling". Entertainment and Sports Lawyer. Hein Online. 24: 3. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  25. ^ McGarvey, Evan (February 27, 2018). "The Rehabilitation of Kurt Angle". Slate. Archived from the original on July 10, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  26. ^ "A Senate Run Brings Professional Wrestling Into the Spotlight". The New York Times. July 16, 2010. Archived from the original on April 29, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  27. ^ Maglio, Tony (April 27, 2021). "'Dark Side of the Ring' Season 3 to Tackle WWF Steroid Trials and The Plane Ride From Hell (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Archived from the original on July 11, 2021. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  28. ^ White, Peter (July 26, 2021). "Vince McMahon Scripted Series In The Works With Blumhouse TV & WWE". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  29. ^ Barrasso, Justin. "Vince McMahon's Steroids Trial the Subject of WWE Series". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  30. ^ Otterson, Joe (July 26, 2021). "Vince McMahon Steroid Trial Scripted Series in the Works From WWE, Blumhouse Television". Variety. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.