The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/03/07
Domestic violence experts downplay the possible role of steroids in the Chris Benoit killings, saying the tragedy was more about Benoit's anger over control issues at home.
Steroid usage has been linked to angry outbursts called "roid rage," and depression when usage stops.
But in the case of Benoit, who apparently killed his wife and 7-year-old son during the weekend of June 24 before committing suicide, "that was a premeditated act and that's not rage," said Dr. Gary Wadler of New York, who studies the use of drugs in sports.
"I would wonder whether there was some underlying psychiatric abnormality that was unmasked by being on steroids," he said.
Kirsten Rambo, executive director of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, said "it's exactly all about power and control. He was paid to be violent and he took that violence home with him. This is a guy who made a conscious choice to take three lives."
Whether Benoit, 40, had recently taken steroids when he killed his wife, Nancy, 43, and son Daniel, who was mentally impaired, is not yet known. A toxicology report due in a few weeks should answer that question.
Steroids were found at their Fayette County house near Peachtree City. World Wrestling Entertainment, his employer, said Benoit tested negative for steroids in April.
Law enforcement officials twice last week searched the Carrollton office of Benoit's doctor, Phil Astin, who was charged in a federal indictment Monday with selling excessive amounts of prescription drugs, but not steroids. Astin acknowledged he had prescribed testosterone, a steroid, for Benoit. Steroid use can enhance athletic performance.
The killings at the Benoit home occurred over an entire weekend, which does not point to rage, experts said.
"It's sort of counterintuitive that he's raging for three days straight," said Nancy Grigsby, executive director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Unfortunately, it looks like a garden variety domestic violence incident to me. It's a decision, and they're actually typically quite calm when they give themselves permission to do what they want to do."
Nancy Benoit filed for divorce in 2003 and sought court protection from her husband. In the protective order petition, she said her husband "lost his temper and threatened to strike the petitioner and cause extensive damage to the home." They reconciled later that year and the divorce action was dismissed.
"He wants control over the spouse and the children. When he doesn't get what he wants, he does the killing," DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger said. Seeliger is former chairman of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.
"It's a question of disappointment in not being able to dominate his partner," Seeliger said. "He's a murderer. He killed two people. I don't see why he's getting sympathy."
'Medication is a vehicle'
Penn State University epidemiologist Charles Yesalis, who has studied steroids for 30 years, said "anabolic steroid rage is a spontaneous behavior. From what I've read, the death of Benoit and his family wasn't spontaneous. I don't see steroids had much, if anything, to do with this."
"The outside medication is a vehicle, it is not the cause," said Dick Bathrick of Atlanta-based Men Stopping Violence. "He takes the drug. He knows the effect that it has. And he's making the choice to stay with that.
"There's a way in which the culture kind of excuses him — actually idolizes him — for his use of violence," Bathrick continued. "He's not been required to look at himself in the way he uses his power, particularly in terms of this relationship."
Bathrick said in 75 percent of domestic violence cases resulting in death, the victim was threatening to leave.
Benoit will have a private service in Alberta, Canada, in his hometown of Ardrossan, where his parents and ex-wife and two children live.
A memorial service for Nancy Benoit and Daniel is scheduled for July 14 in Daytona Beach, Fla., where her parents, Maureen and Paul Toffoloni, live.
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