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Questions raised over prior drug probe in Benoit's death

ATLANTA - Chris Benoit's mother wonders whether her son would still be alive if federal agents had been more aggressive when they discovered the professional wrestler was buying large quantities of steroids.

The Drug Enforcement Administration acknowledged this week that Benoit's name surfaced in an investigation before he killed his wife, son and himself. But Benoit wasn't charged, and his supply continued until at least May, a month before the murder-suicide, records show.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said, 'It's ridiculous for anyone to think we could have known that anything like that could have happened.'

But Benoit's mother said she is concerned by the disclosure as well as another one that suggests police were previously aware that Benoit's doctor, Phil Astin, may have been improperly prescribing medications.

Asked if quicker action by authorities could have helped her son, Margaret Benoit said in a telephone interview from her home in Alberta, Canada, 'We would certainly hope so. We just don't know. We're dealing with so many things. It's incredible.'

The case highlights the DEA's focus on drug traffickers rather than individual users, even when those users are star athletes. The targets of the BALCO investigation in San Francisco, for instance, weren't the baseball players and runners who allegedly bought steroids but the distribution network that sold them.

Building those types of cases can take years.

'We can arrest and prosecute users, but they are not the target or focus of most investigations,' Payne said.

Astin was charged Monday, more than a week after the killings, with improperly prescribing medications to two patients, but not Chris Benoit. More charges are possible later.