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Accidental overdose blamed for death of former wrestler Andrew "Test'' Martin

Andrew Martin's family has found comfort in an outpouring of grief from his WWE fans.

Special to the Times

Andrew Martin's family has found comfort in an outpouring of grief from his WWE fans.

TAMPA — After nearly a month without answers, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office has concluded that an oxycodone overdose killed pro wrestler Andrew "Test" Martin.

He was found dead in his condo on March 13, the victim of what Dick Bailey, the ME's operations manager, described as an accidental overdose. Police found steroids and painkillers in a search of Martin's apartment after he died.

The wrestler's father, Robert Martin, said his 33-year-old son's remains have been cremated and returned to his native Whitby, Ontario for a family funeral service on April 25.

Emergency personnel found the former World Wrestling Entertainment performer's body in his apartment just days before he was scheduled to take a trip to France and Belgium. A neighbor called authorities after noticing that he had been motionless on the couch for several hours.

In a telephone interview, Robert Martin said his son had struggled for years with painkiller addiction, and seemed to finally have overcome it after going to a rehabilitation center.

"He went to one of (the WWE's treatment) programs," he said, and it appeared to have been "quite successful."

By the time the WWE paid for Andrew Martin's stay at a West Palm Beach rehab center last August, the company had spent about a year offering to help with treatment, said John Laurinaitis, the WWE's executive vice president for talent relations.

A WWE time line provided to the Times outlines Martin's long, faltering path to rehab. It begins with his suspension for failing a drug test for testosterone, then losing his WWE contract.

According to that memo, the funeral of 44-year-old Brian "Crush" Adams was a "wake up call.'' Adams had died suddenly in his Tampa home with no signs of trauma, and Martin told Laurinaitis that he "didn't want to be a statistic.''

He tried to detoxify himself at home in September 2007 but failed. That same month saw his first of two DUI arrests, a charge later reduced to reckless driving. But the man behind the strutting fantasy character seemed to be coming undone.

In November, a friend came to Tampa and persuaded Martin to get professional treatment, and took him to the facility, only to learn later that he had checked himself out almost immediately.

Again, he tried to free himself from addiction at home.

After several calls from the WWE and friends, Laurinaitis came to Tampa in January 2008, again offering rehab assistance for "former talent,'' performers who have been dropped or retired from WWE.

Martin said no, the WWE record shows. Still stubbornly trying to rid himself of dependency alone, in February 2008, the memo says, the wrestler had a seizure and his alarmed girlfriend called 911.

In August, Martin finally took up the WWE's offer and entered the Hanley Center of Recovery in West Palm Beach.

Martin completed treatment at Hanley in September 2008, according to WWE records. But a month later he was hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle and kidney ailment sometimes caused by working out too much.

"He always worked out and took care of his body," Robert Martin said.

After that incident, Andrew Martin's life seemed to be improving.

From October to December 2008, Martin told executives at the WWE he was remaining clean and sober, going to support group meetings, talking to a sponsor, selling his house and planning to enroll in college.

And he got back into wrestling in January, with a trip to Japan.

"He really loved wrestling in Japan," Robert Martin said. "I think he enjoyed the fans a lot and was hoping to go back but had other engagements in France and Belgium."

As Test, Laurinaitis remembers "hot and cold'' performances from Andrew Martin. "He had some nights where he was very good, and others where he wasn't."

Robert Martin said he can't be sure, but he believes his son's painkiller dependency began before he left the WWE, when he was sidelined with a neck injury in 2004. And the pills seemed relatively easy to get, he said.

Andrew Martin was released from his WWE contract in 2007 after testing positive for testosterone in the company's talent wellness program.

Dr. David L. Black, who has been doing the WWE's drug tests since 1990, said that more stringent testing and rules were adopted after the death of Eddie Guerrero in 2005.

Performers were given a three strikes policy for testing positive for a long list of narcotics and other banned substances. A 30-day suspension for the first offense, 60 days for the second and the third would void the performer's contract.

Black credits the four-times-a-year testing with changing the culture of professional wrestling.

"I know that we've lost people because of testing over the years, and also some people have been kept out of the company because they can't pass entrance tests," Black said. The wellness program even does its random testing at the many WWE training facilities around the country.

Though he had problems, Andrew Martin was very close to his family, his father said.

The youngest of three children, he loved his brother and sister. In his preschool days he would follow them around wherever they went, and wanted to do what they did, Robert Martin said.

As a man, he doted on his nieces and nephew, playing cards, building snowmen and running around in the yard with them when he returned home to Canada for holidays.

The outpouring on YouTube from hundreds of fans has been a source of comfort to a family amid the grief of losing Andrew Martin just days before his 34th birthday, on St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm amazed by how many people's lives he touched," Robert Martin explained. "So he must have been present in some way. We can't ask for more than that."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813)226 3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Accidental overdose blamed for death of former wrestler Andrew "Test'' Martin 04/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 11, 2009 10:33am]
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