Twenty-five years ago this week, at the now-shuttered federal courthouse in Uniondale for the Eastern District of New York, WWE chief Vincent Kennedy McMahon was acquitted on charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute anabolic steroids. It was a pivotal moment in wrestling history, and the effective conclusion of a case that is both more complicated and much simpler than it’s commonly understood to be. The repercussions of that case and that verdict would extend for years into the future, both in terms of the wrestling product and the public perception of it. McMahon also came to believe that the government and the media were out to get him, although he’d already been trending in that direction.
What’s now World Wrestling Entertainment was then Titan Sports doing business as the World Wrestling Federation. “Titan” was fitting because, more than just about any other wrestling promotion, the WWF was always a “big man’s territory,” and that preference for beef impacted numerous facets of the company. The promotion’s in-ring style was largely glacial and ponderous, and the rings had less give because of the need to support the additional weight. This was made possible by the fact that, starting in the early 1980s, WWF wrestlers had easier access to a superior quality of anabolic steroids than what was then being sold on the black market at gyms. Dr. George T. Zahorian III, a urologist assigned to WWF events by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, started selling steroids to wrestlers in the early ‘80s after, as he would later testify, an illiterate wrestler came to him about the veterinary steroids he was taking unknowingly.
WWF taped six episodes of television on back-to-back nights every three weeks through spring of 1984 and ran in the Keystone State more than just about anywhere else after that, which gave Zahorian plenty of opportunities to sell. He was also willing to ship his wares via Federal Express when necessary.