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Authorities found elevated level of steroid in Benoit

DECATUR - Pro wrestler Chris Benoit had an elevated level of a steroid in his system when he took his life after killing his wife and 7-year-old son, but it was impossible to say whether that played a role in the killings, Georgia's top medical examiner said Tuesday.

Dr. Kris Sperry said tests found 10 times the normal level of testosterone, indicating that Benoit likely injected the substance shortly before he died. But he said there was no evidence of any other anabolic steroids in the wrestler's system.

Sperry said the boy appeared to have been sedated when he was asphyxiated, and Benoit's wife, Nancy, had a 'therapeutic' level of sedatives in her body.

He cautioned that too much should not be read into the testosterone results.

'How much, how frequently, how often and how long could not be determined today,' Sperry said at a news conference to announce the results of tests.

He added, 'The long and the short of it is ... an elevation of that ratio does not translate into something abnormal in a person's thought process or behavior.'

Authorities said Benoit killed his wife and boy in their metro Atlanta home last month, placed Bibles next to their bodies and then hanged himself on the cable of a weight machine.

Anabolic steroids were found in the Benoits' gated home, leading officials to wonder if the drugs played a role in the killings. Some experts believe steroids can cause paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as 'roid rage.'

Sperry said there's no scientific evidence that the use of testosterone, considered an anabolic steroid by physicians, could have prompted the killings.

'With respect to the testosterone, this a question that basically no one knows the answer to,' Sperry said. 'There is conflicting scientific data as to whether or not testosterone creates mental disorders or leads to outbursts of rage. There's data that suggests it and other data that refute it. Essentially, I think it's an unanswerable question.'

Medical examiners also said they found the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone in Chris Benoit's body, but they said it was found at a therapeutic - not toxic - level.

Xanax, hydrocodone and another painkiller, hydromorphone, were found in Nancy Benoit's body, the report said.

The son, Daniel, had Xanax in his system, the statement said. The GBI said it could not perform tests for steroids or human growth hormones on the son because of lack of adequate amount of urine.

The drug tests were conducted in an outside lab, said GBI spokesman John Bankhead.

Tests on Chris Benoit were negative for alcohol, while Nancy was found with a blood-alcohol level of .184, more than twice Georgia's legal limit.

Investigators were eager to determine whether alcohol was a factor in the killings, as Ballard had said 10 empty beer cans were found in their home, as well as an empty wine bottle a few feet from where Benoit hanged himself.

But Sperry said the alcohol level in Nancy's body may have been affected by the decomposition of her body. He said the tests as a whole shed little light on what happened in the house.

'I would say these results give answers as far as drug and medication usage,' he said. 'Now specifically, I think they do show that Daniel Benoit was sedated at the time that he was murdered. Beyond that, I don't think they reveal anything at all.'

World Wrestling Entertainment, which last tested Benoit for steroids in April, said the tests were proof Benoit tested positive for no illegal steroids.

'All it means is that scientifically, it's now known that sometime between April 10 and when he died, he had treatment with testosterone,' said Jerry McDevitt, a WWE attorney. 'That's all it establishes.'

State investigators would not comment on whether the findings have any links to federal charges filed against Dr. Phil Astin, Benoit's personal physician.

Astin has been charged with improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs to two patients other than Benoit. He has pleaded not guilty.

Investigators office has also been raided Astin's office several times since the deaths, seizing prescription records and other medical documents.

Before he was charged, Astin told the AP he prescribed testosterone for Benoit, a longtime friend, in the past. He would not say what, if any, medications he prescribed when Benoit visited his office June 22, the day authorities believe Benoit killed his wife.