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'Roid rage' questions surround Benoit murder-suicide

Story Highlights

• Performance steroids found in wrestler's home; toxicology report pending
• Physician: Steroids linked to psychosis, anti-social behavior, depression
• Benoit's wrestling group discounts suggestions of so-called "roid rage"
• Police: Wrestler strangled wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son, hanged himself
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FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- The discovery of anabolic steroids in pro-wrestler Chris Benoit's home has raised speculation that the performance-enhancing drugs may be linked to his death and the killings of his wife and young son.

The 40-year-old champion strangled his wife, Nancy Benoit, and suffocated his 7-year-old son Daniel, authorities said, before he hanged himself on a portable weight machine inside his lavish home outside Atlanta. Police have said no motive has been determined.

"A lot of prescription medication" was found in the home, including anabolic steroids, said Fayette County Sheriff Lt. Tommy Pope. (Watch the house where Chris Benoit, police say, killed his wife and son Video)

But authorities were still waiting on toxicology reports, which could take several weeks, to determine what, if any, medication was found in the bodies.

Chris Benoit was a pro-wrestler for 22 years and star of World Wrestling Entertainment, which strongly denounced any suggestion that steroid use could be connected to the tragedy.

The WWE said Benoit tested negative for drugs during an independently administered evaluation on April 10.

CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Wednesday that it may never be known whether the deaths were linked to steroids or so-called "roid-rage."

"The drugs said to be found in the home are a synthetic form of testosterone," Gupta said. "A lot of people use it to build muscle mass, but there are longstanding known relationships between the steroids and roid rage. It could lead to psychosis and anti-social behavior and depression."

But the WWE said evidence gathered in the investigation indicates "deliberation, not rage."

"The wife's feet and hands were bound and she was asphyxiated, not beaten to death," said a statement posted on the company's Web site. "By the account of the authorities, there were substantial periods of time between the death of the wife and the death of the son, again suggesting deliberate thought, not rage."

Investigators found the bodies of Nancy and Daniel Benoit with Bibles placed next to them, authorities have said. "The presence of a Bible by each is also not an act of rage," said the WWE.

Former professional wrestler Del Wilkes said athletes use steroids to gain strength and size, which are key to success in the wrestling world. But he warned that the drugs sometimes come with "moments of uncontrollable rage."

"You can feel it coming on but there's nothing you can do about it," Wilkes said. "The next thing you know, a minor argument has gone into a full-fledged rage, when you've got your hands around somebody's neck. You're in a fight and doing things you wouldn't normally do."

Wilkes also said the drugs can also cause "tremendous" depression "when guys are coming off steroids after they've been on it for a long period of time."

An official who is part of the investigation told CNN that Benoit's name was on receipts that indicated he had purchased shipments of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones from Signature Pharmacy, an Orlando, Florida, facility that is at the center of a nationwide investigation into the sale of illegal steroids.

As the investigation unfolded Wednesday, details about events inside the home began to emerge.

Needle marks were found in Daniel's arm, said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. He said authorities suspect "that the boy had been taking growth hormones for quite some time," and are hoping to prove that with toxicology. The boy, Ballard said, was diagnosed with a form of dwarfism.

Daniel was found face down on his bed, but authorities said they do not know whether he was sleeping when he was killed. Ballard said authorities believe the child was asphyxiated using a choke hold. Benoit hung himself using the cord on a portable weight machine, Ballard said.

Ballard said Nancy Benoit's body was found face down on the floor in an upstairs family room, wrapped in a blanket with her feet and wrists bound and blood under her head.

Two days before Benoit and his family were found dead, the wrestler told co-workers by phone his wife and son were sick with food poisoning and he had been having a stressful day, according to the WWE.

Chris Benoit left no suicide note, Pope said, but had sent text messages to a co-worker early Sunday, which was received several hours later. He refused to divulge the contents of the messages.

The WWE, however, said the five text messages were sent to co-workers between 3:51 a.m. and 3:58 a.m. using both Chris Benoit's and Nancy Benoit's cell phones. Four of them were the Benoits' address; the fifth said that the family's dogs were in the enclosed pool area and noted a garage side door was open.

The WWE said it made numerous attempts to contact Chris Benoit at his home and at Atlanta-area hospitals. At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, it learned of the text messages and contacted police, the statement said.

"In a community like this, it's just bizarre to have a murder-suicide, certainly involving the death of a 7-year-old child," Ballard told reporters. "I think that's what I'm struck by most ... there's a 7-year-old boy who is dead."

Chris Benoit once had been arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in another Fayette County jurisdiction, authorities said, but had no other criminal record.

CNN learned that divorce papers for the couple were filed in Fayette County in 2003, but the divorce never took place. Ballard said it was his understanding that a protection order was sought in 2003, but later dismissed. He had he had not seen the filings.

CNN's Rusty Dornin and Adam Reiss contributed to this report.


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