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Jerry McDevitt tries to discredit Irv Muchnick again, won't concede that Chris Benoit had CTE

Vince McMahon's personal lawyer Jerry McDevitt now has a lot of time on his hands thanks to the mainstream media ending their scrutiny of WWE after Linda McMahon's $50 million senate campaign crashed to defeat.  This spare time has allowed McDevitt to refocus his nasty legal attack on pesky author and blogger Irv Muchnick, which Muchnick immediately posted and responded to.    

Their latest exchange of words stems from both men giving contradictory quotes in a December 2nd article about WWE's Wellness policy by Charlie Deitch of the Pittsburgh City Paper.  The article was hilarious for Deitch's opening, which gave glowing praise to McDevitt for being a driving force behind establishing WWE's Wellness policy, despite McDevitt's boastful interview with Deitch being unfortunately interrupted by McDevitt getting word that Lance Cade had just passed away:

Ask most Pittsburghers about the city's contributions to professional wrestling, and you'll likely hear the name Kurt Angle, the former Olympian who doubled down on his fame by becoming a professional-wrestling superstar.  Older fans will recall the greatness of Bruno Sammartino, who once squared off against the likes of Ivan Koloff and Cowboy Billy Watts.

Very few Pittsburghers will mention Jerry McDevitt.  And yet it may be McDevitt, an attorney with the law firm of K&L Gates, whose legacy will be the most lasting....  McDevitt helped establish a medical-testing program to protect the wrestlers' health -- a program that was a key issue in the failed Connecticut Senate bid of McMahon's wife, Linda.

Which is why I found myself in McDevitt's Downtown offices ... in mid-August, talking about the WWE's vaunted wellness policy....  It was, McDevitt boasted, the finest monitoring program in American sports -- and one sign of its success, he said, was that since it was adopted, the number of headlines involving dead wrestlers had trailed off.

As we spoke, though, McDevitt's phone rang several times.  His incoming e-mail alert went off, but he ignored that, too.  Minutes later, his assistant came to the door and called him into the hallway.

After a few moments, he re-entered the room, looking shaken.

"I just found out that one of our former wrestlers died last night," he said.

That wrestler was Lance Cade.  He was 29 years old, and his death -- although ruled an accident -- came from ingesting multiple drugs on top of a weak heart.  McMahon's election opponent had a new talking point.  But for wrestling fans everywhere, the real question is what more, if anything, can be done to protect their stars.

Later on in the article, McDevitt took umbrage at Muchnick's valid criticism that WWE's Wellness policy lacked independence and transparency, particularly when it came to punishment of talent for violations of their policy:

"The only reason they instituted the wellness program was the high-profile death of Eddie Guerrero," says wrestling author and WWE critic Irvin Muchnick.  "That program is a joke. Although they have steroid testing, the contract lab is controlled by the WWE.  The decisions on suspensions and other discipline are completely controlled by Vince McMahon."

It's true that the WWE administers its policy internally without outside scrutiny.  But that doesn't mean that McMahon calls the shots.  McDevitt says WWE pays for the Wellness policy, but it's the doctors and administrators at the drug testing lab that call the shots.

"Vince McMahon has no idea when they're testing these guys and the punishments are set forth clearly in the wellness policy," McDevitt says.  "This is handled completely by the doctors and the testing lab.  Vince McMahon is left completely out of that loop.  Anyone who says differently, just doesn't understand the policy and how it works."

Muchnick was quick to express his disappointment at Deitch's flawed article in a blog post on the day it was published:

The cover story in the current Pittsburgh City Paper on the World Wrestling Entertainment wellness policy is very poor, possibly the least informative and coherent article of that length yet published on this subject.

The article was also the first on the subject to praise McDevitt so highly, which may explain why McDevitt singled out this blog post from Irv for a nasty legal letter asking for a retraction of the false statements McDevitt claims Muchnick made in Deitch's article and his subsequent burial of it.  Analysis of McDevitt's letter after the jump.

Here's a summary of McDevitt's most fascinating claims:

  • "Contrary to your false statements, no action was taken against Randy Orton because he was not on any customer list for Signature pharmacy ever provided to us by District Attorney Soares".  McDevitt doesn't explain the discrepancy of Sports Illustrated publishing that Randy Orton received somatropin, nandrolone and stanozolol from Signature Pharmacy between September 2004 and February 2007, and why WWE never took legal action against Sports Illustrated for publishing this "lie".  Moreover, McDevitt's claim doesn't gel with Dave Meltzer's reporting at the time, who claimed that no action was taken against Randy Orton because he had failed a drug test in August 2006 while he was receiving packages from Signature Pharmacy and thus had already served his time.  That warped logic was motivated by Orton being scheduled to headline the next PPV, Unforgiven 2007, which he would have missed had he been suspended.
  • "I note that it is truly indicative of your existing malice towards WWE and all persons associated with WWE that you would actively assist the Blumenthal campaign to smear WWE by arranging for Michael Benoit to be sprung on an unsuspecting and uninformed press on October 25, 2010 amidst the Senatorial campaign".  Muchnick merely gave Blumenthal campaign's Mike Benoit's telephone number, something I'm sure they could have found themselves through alternative means.  He was hardly "sprung on an unsuspecting and uninformed press", given that the Connecticut media was told days in advance about Mike Benoit's press conference.
  • McDevitt continues to willfully misrepresent that when Dr. Bennet Omalu said Chris Benoit's brain looked like the brain of an elderly dementia patient he meant that Benoit had the brain of an elderly dementia patient and was suffering from the exact same symptoms.
  • McDevitt frequently insinuates that the slides presented by Dr. Omalu purported to be of Chris Benoit's brain tissue was not in fact from Chris Benoit, because the Sports Legacy Institute would not send WWE chain of custody records regarding the handling of Chris Benoit's brain tissue.
  • So who's tissue was it then?  As McDevitt had the good fortune to cross examine Dr. Omalu in February 2008 during the criminal trial of his former boss Dr. Cyril Wecht, he can take a wild stab in the dark:  "For days, Dr. Omalu testified to various brains and body parts he had removed from private autopsy patients of Dr. Wecht and brought back to the county morgue to photograph, index, make slides of, and put on computer data banks maintained by him for his use.  One of the more bizarre exhibits was a bucket of brain fragments Omalu had brought back from the private autopsies and stored in the coroner's office.  He was shown at trial to have access to tissue samples from various so-called brain banks, and various news reports since have indicated that Omalu actually took brain tissue fragments home with him".
  • McDevitt's take home message is that even if the brain tissue that Dr. Omalu studied was confirmed to indeed be Chris Benoit's, then Omalu's research was so poorly done to cast major doubt on his conclusion that Benoit was suffering from CTE at the time of his death:  "Significantly, Omalu's own article, co-authored by his legal counsel, squarely admits that a definitive diagnosis of CTE cannot be made without the whole brain and elsewhere disclosed that he does not even claim to have had the whole brain of Chris Benoit....  The article claims that, after dissecting the brain during the autopsy of Chris Benoit, it was supposedly put back inside his cadaver for cremation by unnamed persons and was decomposing there when presumably Dr. Omalu arrives to secure the brain....  Now, it is admitted in the article that sections of the brain containing the mesial temporal lobe, amygdale, and hippocampus were not examined and "most probably were inadvertently left inside the body and possibly were cremated with the body".
I must congratulate McDevitt for constructing an excellent narrative to muddy the waters regarding the state of Chris Benoit's brain at the time of his death.  It's a godsend for the fans who want to stubbornly cling on to the belief that over two decades of brain trauma from the whiplash effect of flat back bumps, missed diving headbutts and unprotected chair shots, could not possibly have contributed to his murderous mental meltdown.  However, I'm not sure that even McDevitt genuinely buys into his narrative, he just can't concede that Chris Benoit had CTE for legal reasons.  The company he represents, WWE, must believe that there is at least some smoke to the fire from the research into Chris Benoit's and Andrew Martin's brains, otherwise they wouldn't have employed the services of neuroscientist Dr. Joseph Maroon, instituted his head-injury evaluation tool called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), and recently reached out to Chris Nowinski to tell him that they wanted to get behind his Sports Legacy Institute and their research on the effects of concussions (though that may have been largely to shut him up before Linda's election).

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