|Hulk Hogan 2nd Interview with: The Sun|
|WRESTLING legend Hulk Hogan has lashed out at the industry which made him a megastar. And he has demanded an end to the decades-long cover-up of steroid abuse in the sport.Hogan, 54, took the muscle-enhancing drugs almost daily for 16 years during his career and says he can spot a user a mile off. With more than 100 grapplers dying before the age of 50 in the last decade, he is begging others to face up to the crisis.
The Sun has been leading an anti-steroid abuse campaign since wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and seven-year-old son before committing suicide in June. A handful of former stars have already spoken out and prompted US politicians to start investigating the industry.
But many in the WWE, the world’s biggest fight franchise, deny there is a problem and have blasted their ex-colleagues as bitter failures who haven’t wrestled in years. They cannot same the same about Hogan, wrestling’s equivalent of Pele or Muhammad Ali who was fighting for them just 12 months ago.
In an exclusive Sun interview, he said: “Are steroids a problem in wrestling? Oh God yeah. They have always been a part of the business. It’s prevalent. “But there’s not some big mystery to it. Just open your eyes and it’s there. You can look at a wrestler and pretty much tell.
“They will be above their weight range, with these big veins. My body weight is around 285lb, depending on how much junk I eat. Even if I was 25 and clean, I could probably only carry 300lb. “Yet when I was wrestling I weighed anywhere between 320 and 340lb, because my body was full of water weight.
“My face was puffy, my arms were so bulky I couldn’t touch my shoulders. You could take one look at me and know I was on something. “Steroids have been around for ever in other sports too, but if we have to pick on somebody now then let’s pick on wrestling.
“I’m glad the business is in the spotlight because they’re probably the only ones smart enough, after being able to dodge it for so long, to know how to fix it.” NOW CLEAN … obscene muscles have gone
The Hulkster added: “I remember up until the early 1990s any wrestler could walk into a doctor and they’d write you a prescription for steroids. “Then there was a huge trial where WWE boss Vince McMahon was unfairly accused and rightly acquitted of distributing the drugs to his workers.
“This ushered in the era of wrestlers playing ‘hide and seek’. “If they can get away with things then they will. But now I think we’re at the 11th hour.
“We can’t have hide and seek being played any more. “The WWE say they are drug testing, but if they are then it’s not good enough. Because these guys have to stop dying.”
Despite going on TV at the time to deny it, Hogan has since confessed he regularly used steroids between 1975 and 1991. In that period he helped turn the WWE, then known as the WWF, from a New York-based wrestling group into a global entertainment brand.
In 1984 he won their world heavyweight championship, holding it on and off for the best part of the next seven years and starring in the main event at six of their first seven WrestleMania extravaganzas. But behind his superhero mystique lay a dirty secret.
In his 2003 autobiography Hogan admitted: “I would tell kids to train, say their prayers and take their vitamins. But it wasn’t just vitamins I was taking. “But at that time every wrestler I knew was on steroids. 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.” Alongside steroids, experts also blame painkillers and recreational drug abuse for the high number of deaths among young wrestlers.
Again it is something Hogan witnessed and he is pleased to say the industry has made progress on the latter. He said: “There’s definitely much less of a party scene and cocaine use today.
“When I went back to the WWE, I’d go down to the Marriott bar after the show – and all you would see is Ric Flair there with a Jack Daniels and Hulk Hogan drinking a beer. “In the old days EVERY wrestler would be in the bar and then they’d go out and stay out all night.
“But now they are all upstairs on their computers. “Maybe they’re not playing games up there, but it certainly seems a lot better.
“As for painkillers, like steroids, they have always been around. I was naïve when I first entered wrestling and didn’t even know what they were. “But there was a point later on where I got hurt and found out… pretty quickly!
“I used them but not to the point of abusing and to the levels of the horror stories I’ve heard. “I always knew my limitations and had regular blood tests and physicals.
“During the years when I would hear of these massive doses of pills some guys would take, I remember thinking they would laugh at me if they knew what I was involved in. I would be a big joke.” Hogan is currently in talks to start his own promotion, in which the focus will be firmly taken off those with superhuman physiques.
He said: “I don’t know what the other federations can do, but I do know what I can do and it’s all part of my plan for a new wrestling idea. “It came from another person and when they told it to me it was the smartest thing I’d ever heard.
“I have been speaking to people from the American television networks and other important people in LA. In the first two weeks they raised $40million (£20million). I need about $80-100million to start it up. “If me and my partners pull it off then the wrestlers will have a more natural look and an easier schedule – all of the things people are saying the business needs.
“And then Vince McMahon and everyone else in the business will have to follow suit.” Hogan is fully aware that his stance opens him up to charges of hypocrisy.
Critics argue he was the “poster boy” for steroids throughout much of his career and other wrestlers emulated him to get the same “main event” physique. So isn’t Hulk Hogan’s plea to get steroids out of wrestling like George Bush calling for troops to leave Iraq?
The Hulkster replies: “I’m not trying to repent but I am being honest about my failings. I want youngsters to be educated. “If I was 25 right now, coming into this business, I don’t know what I’d be like in that locker room.
“But I know one thing. Wrestling needs to make sure everything is above board. “So is it hypocritical of me? Yes.
“But is it hypocritical of me now in 2007? No. I think it’s more like poetic justice. “I’ve learned from being around, surviving and watching the many mistakes I and others made.
“I thank God I’m still alive!”