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Saturday November 10, 2007 11:13 pm

CNN Documentary Reveals Poor Journalism

Cena Screwed On CNNProfessional wrestling has long been the red-headed stepchild of both entertainment and sports - dismissed as “fake”  for its predetermined outcomes and often criticized for its over-the-top personalities. So it comes as no surprise that when WWE superstar Chris Benoit killed his family and himself several months ago, pro-wrestling’s detractors saw their opening.

Since that day, speculation over the possible, albeit unlikely, link to those deaths and steroids has opened WWE to federal investigations as well as a firestorm of public/media scrutiny. Among the pieces supposedly “exposing” the steroid use of WWE superstars was CNN’s Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, which aired this past week. In this broadcast, former WWE Champion John Cena was asked if he had ever used steroids. CNN showed his frank response as: “I can’t tell you that I haven’t, but you’ll never be able to prove that I have.”

But that’s not how Cena responded to the question. Join me after the jump for his full answer.

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WWE

An unedited version of John Cena’s interview, shot by WWE cameras, shows a very different response than the one that CNN irresponsibly took out of context. When the interviewer asked John Cena, “Have you ever used steroids?” - his response was this:

Absolutely not. This is a crazy question. And it’s something that, um, it’s tough to answer, just because of the way society is now, the way people conceive things because performance-enhancing drugs have got the spotlight and it’s a hot thing to talk about. Any time you see any athlete in any athletic venture, could be the PGA tour, achieve physical greatness, something that is beyond the norm. Even for a top-tier athlete. If top-tier athletes are rushing for a thousand yards, and somebody comes out and starts running people over, rushing for two thousand. It’s not athletic achievement any more and that’s something that really gets me. It’s ‘he or she is on performance-enhancing drugs.’ And it’s only because certain athletes have gotten themselves into certain situations where automatically the finger is pointed at somebody: ‘Oh, they’re on performance-enhancing drugs.’ My answer to that question, have you ever used steroids, is the only thing I can say: I can’t tell you that I haven’t, but you’ll never be able to prove that I have. Because each one of you, each one of you out there, has an opinion on how I carry myself. And I can take a million tests, I’ve been tested for drugs since I was 17 years old, I can take a million tests, I can pass every one of them, as soon as I pass it, there’s some other guy on the other end going, ‘There’s masking agents, there’s this, there’s that.’ I know the arguments because I’ve been in the situation. This is a subject that’s very very near and dear to me only because since I was a very small child I’ve worked my ass off to get to where I’m at, and it sucks to be able to have to deal with people saying that I have to rely on a crutch. You know, I wake up every day and I work myself to the bone because I love what I do. I’ve got the best gig in the world. I love it. And it kills me to have to sit here and do this with one arm. Like I want to be back out there. You hear stories about guys coming home from the war and they’re in the infirmary and all they want to do is get back in the field. I want to get back in the field. You know, it’s killing me. But to have to deal with the popularity of a substance that enhances performance, it’s tough to take. I take great pride in the fact that I have a God-given gift of above-average natural strength. And I show it off whenever I can, because to me that’s fun, that’s entertaining, that’s what I love to do.

This complete answer shows a very different response - a clear answer of, “No, I have not used steroids,” as opposed to the frank and rather cryptic reply CNN decided to show. A cryptic message that was deliberately taken out of context by CNN to slander a man who is currently the WWE’s most popular performer. Cena is, more or less, the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. So to hear him insinuate that perhaps he has used steroids would be a big blow to a company that is already under the microscope.

WWE responded to this poor excuse for journalism with the following: In a country in which the news media is highly suspect, and the quality of unbiased reporting has been thrown into the trash can, CNN has stooped to new depths. Notwithstanding the fairness, or lack therein, of CNN’s recent piece entitled “Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling,” perhaps the best example of how CNN misrepresents and unfairly presents their biased, if not illegal, point of view is the comparison of WWE’s unedited video above to CNN’s edited version. CNN’s depiction of John Cena as it relates to steroids is not only professionally and morally wrong, but damaging to his character.

Watch both the unedited and CNN version of Cena’s response at WWE.com.

This story strikes a nerve with me as both a wrestling fan and a journalist. As a wrestling fan, it always frustrates me that people feel compelled to continually question this form of entertainment. Wrestling is what it is, and what it unapologetically categorizes itself as - sports entertainment. These men beat and batter their bodies 300 days out of the year doing what they love to do and doing it for millions of fans. Is it soap opera-ish? Yes. Is it, perhaps, not the wholesome bit of After School Special that conservative America would prefer it was? Absolutely. So to see this gang tackling of pro-wrestling as a whole, just because there are men out there who make a personal decision to poison their bodies and shorten their lives for big muscles, is madness.

Is there a need for drug-testing in wrestling? Absolutely. And WWE has instituted a wellness program to ensure that its wrestlers will not be killing themselves with steroids. Some cry that this is too little too late - merely steps that have been taken after the fact and in the face of the federal investigations. Maybe so, but simply put - it’s better late than never,

As a journalist, this story infuriates me even more. I work very hard to maintain a certain journalistic standard - honesty, integrity and reporting in a way that is ethically and morally right as it pertains to the business I am in. I wonder how the people at CNN can sleep at night knowing that they have a complete disregard for being true to the business that honest people work so hard to be a part of. As a group that has exposure to millions of people, it hurts me to see CNN squander the opportunity to make a difference in this world - a difference by truthfully reporting on the things that effect us every single day. When I went to school to become a journalist, there were never any classes about using my own political agenda to sway my reporting, or seeking out the people or things I dislike and publicly and knowingly slander them.

It disgusts me to see CNN reporting the facts as they see them, and cutting up interviews to present a story that benefits their own ends. I work my ass off to climb the ladder in this business - with honesty and integrity. And it sickens me to see that these men and women at the top of our industry - the ones who are lucky to be there - lying and cheating their way to viewers and readers. You are everything that is wrong with the media and the news, CNN - and everything I work so hard to not be.

It’s about time that the people in this country stopped salivating for more gossip about Paris and Britney, and started worrying about the outlets that are supposedly “reporting” our unbiased news.

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