Romano: Steroids Aren’t the Villain You Think They Are

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I know I rolled my eyes during the last show and went off on a little tirade when the topic of Greg Valentino’s gall bladder issue was relegated immediately to his steroid use from 25 years ago voiced in the comments. This knee-jerk reaction is generally trumpeted by those not in the medical profession, ignorant of any personal facts about the individual, his health, and his family history; or they’re just ignorant. It is the latter adjective with which I would like to take issue, mainly because it’s not their fault.

Click here to donate to Greg Valentino’s gallbladder surgery

The Cyclops of Public Opinion: Navigating Misconceptions

There’s an old saying in Mexico that goes, ‘in the land of the blind, the Cyclops is king.’ I can’t fault those in our audience who come to the table ill-informed. You’re all blind to the issue, and the cyclops, who was in charge, only had one eye, and it was jaundiced at that! So, I’m going to go ahead and go off on a little rant about it. I’m going to meander all over the place and leave out some of the events that transpired in between the gaps, but I only have so much space. The path I’m about to go down is book-length to do it any real justice. I’m only going to hit the peaks of my particular view of things—from a much less jaundiced eye than the cyclops.

So let’s say you were born blind. All throughout your childhood, everyone close to you was also blind—your parents and grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles… but you didn’t know that. You thought they could all see because they spoke very confidently about such things as the sky being green with yellow stripes. Now, you don’t know that’s not true. You’re relying on the info you’re given, from supposedly trusted sources, so you believe it.

Then, someday later, you stumble across someone who can see. They say hello to you and comment that ‘it’s such a beautiful sunny day today.’
And you respond by saying something like, ‘Is the green and yellow striped sky really bright?’
They say, ‘dude, the sky is blue. Solid color. No stripes.’
Then you naturally respond by countering the assertion, ‘No it’s not!’ You shout. ‘The sky is green with yellow stripes!’
And therein lies the problem with misinformation. We have people who can’t see arguing about the color of the sky.

Put PEDs aside for a minute and look what happened with marijuana. Can you imagine the reaction a hard toking Rastafarian, fresh off Negril beach, would have if he sat down to watch Reefer Madness? Those primitive, overly melodramatic scenes of high school students, lured by pushers to try marijuana… For those of you who don’t know, immediately upon the first toke, the travesties unfolded. These included becoming addicted, eventually leading the teens to become involved in various crimes, such as a hit and run accident, manslaughter, murder, conspiracy to murder and rape. While all this is happening, they suffer hallucinations, descend into insanity, associate with organized crime and, in one case, commit suicide. Can you imagine this today? The Rasta man would still be laughing. Unless he got arrested for weed. Then he’d still be crying.

The Political Football of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Over the years, the government has picked a fight with various drugs. In the ’60s and ’70s, it was weed and heroin. In the ’80s, it was cocaine and Quaaludes, then club drugs, GHB, painkillers, Fentanyl… All throughout the decades, the DEA has been… let’s say ‘directed’ to go after certain drugs specifically, usually to satisfy pressure from one lobby or another, parent groups, public outcry, whatever. It was only a matter of time before steroids would be found in the crosshairs.


That time came in 2005 during the State Of The Union Address. In it, President Bush (the younger one) decided he was going to shoot fish in a barrel and proclaim his assault on steroids. He stated: ‘The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message… that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.’ This, of course, was after baseball emerged from its post-strike slump.

Why was this like shooting fish in a barrel? Bush was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1994, a period that overlapped with the steroid era in baseball. Jose Canseco, who played for the Rangers during part of Bush’s tenure, was known as ‘the godfather of steroids’ and had not only admitted to using steroids during his career, he also had been linked to, or somehow assisted in, the use of steroids by numerous teammates… I should probably stop here and say that any direct involvement or knowledge on Bush’s part regarding Canseco’s steroid use is speculative on my part and not definitively proven… But, the likelihood of him not knowing is pretty slim. It’s a fact that Canseco was openly known as the godfather of steroids. Bush couldn’t possibly not have known.

Nevertheless, some weeks later, then US Attorney John Ashcroft personally read – from the steps of the White House – the indictments against BALCO president Victor Conte and several others on numerous counts of trafficking steroids to athletes. That saga went on to suck in Barry Bonds and… That’s a whole other tangent we can talk about on another show….

The ’90s Major League Baseball strike lasted from August 12, 1994, until April 2, 1995. This strike was a labor dispute between Major League Baseball (MLB) players and team owners over issues such as revenue sharing, salary caps, and free agency rules. It was the eighth work stoppage in MLB history and resulted in the cancellation of the remainder of the 1994 regular season, the entire postseason, and the World Series. The strike was resolved when the players and owners reached a new collective bargaining agreement on March 31, 1995, allowing the 1995 season to commence. But the fans were still pissed.

By the time the ’95 season opened, fans were thoroughly disenchanted and had gotten used to no baseball and weren’t going to the games. MLB was hemorrhaging money, and they were desperate to get fans back in their stadiums. By 1998 MLB was set to pull out all the stops. Baseball was literally on the ropes. Ultimately, the directive from MLB was, according to Jose Canseco during an interview I did with him, for the players to ‘do whatever it takes’ to generate interest in baseball. Apparently, ‘whatever it takes’ had undisclosed boundaries.

Roger Maris (NY Yankees) hits 61st home run
Everett / Shutterstock

Both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were having remarkable seasons in ’98, hitting home runs at an unprecedented pace. Fans became captivated by their pursuit of the single-season home run record set by Roger Maris in 1961.

As McGwire and Sosa continued to hit homers at an extraordinary rate, media coverage of their chase intensified. Television networks, newspapers, and magazines devoted significant coverage to the race, generating widespread interest and excitement among fans. The home run race captured the attention of not only die-hard baseball fans but also casual sports enthusiasts and the general public. People who may not have previously been interested in baseball were drawn to the drama and suspense of the record-breaking chase. It was as American as it gets.

On September 8, 1998, Mark McGwire surpassed Roger Maris’s record by hitting his 62nd home run of the season. Sammy Sosa also reached the 62-homer mark later that month. These historic milestones achieved by McGwire and Sosa further fueled public fascination with the home run race, and provided a unifying and feel-good story for baseball fans, helping to heal some of the wounds left by the bitterness of the 1994–95 strike. The excitement surrounding McGwire and Sosa’s accomplishments brought fans back to the ballpark and rejuvenated interest in baseball.

Overall, the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is regarded as one of the most memorable and significant moments in baseball history. It played a crucial role in revitalizing interest in the sport following the turmoil of the strike years and reaffirmed baseball’s place as America’s No. 1 pastime… But, it was ‘all drugs.’ So, after MLB cleared $1 billion in profits, they threw the players, who did do whatever it took, under the bus. But not without help.

Texas Ranger outfielder, Jose Canseco, had a contentious relationship with many individuals in baseball, including teammates, coaches, and team executives. His career had been marred by controversies, including legal troubles and allegations of misconduct on and off the field. By coming forward with revelations about steroid use in baseball, Canseco may have hoped to rehabilitate his image and portray himself as a truth-teller who was willing to confront uncomfortable truths about the sport. In his 2005 tell-all book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, Canseco recounted numerous personal conflicts and grievances within the baseball world, suggesting that his decision to expose steroid use may have been motivated in part by a desire to settle scores or seek revenge against those who he felt wronged him.

Subsequently, Canseco’s accusations against America’s favorite pastime got the attention of Congress, particularly those on the House Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Tom Davis. The House initiated the hearings to investigate the prevalence of steroid use in baseball, the effectiveness of MLB’s drug testing policies, and the role of league officials and players’ union representatives had in addressing the issue.

The congressional hearings provided a platform for lawmakers to question witnesses, including current and former MLB players, league officials, medical experts, and representatives from the players’ union, about the extent of steroid use in baseball and its impact on the sport.

Ron Sachs / Shutterstock

The first set of hearings took place on March 17, 2005, where Canseco testified to his own steroid use, and also implicated his former teammates, claiming that he had personally injected other players with steroids. The revelations in Canseco’s book and his congressional testimony sparked widespread controversy and further scrutiny of steroid use in baseball. They received significant media attention and public scrutiny, leading to reforms in MLB’s drug testing policies and stricter penalties for players caught using PEDs.

Overall, the congressional baseball hearings were initiated in response to public outcry and concerns about the integrity of the sport in the face of widespread doping allegations. They played a significant role in raising awareness about the issue of PEDs in baseball and prompting reforms to address it. The lion’s share of the concerns over steroids in baseball was not only the nefarious message it sends to kids, but much hay was also made over fairness and the ‘level playing field.’

Apparently, fair competition requires a ‘level playing field’ where all competitors abide by the same rules and regulations. This includes rules against certain substances or practices that could provide an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, the scope of that idea becomes hypocritical. The advantage of certain substances and practices is not unfair when everyone has equal access to them. That is the exact definition of an even playing field. The rules against the use of PEDs are designed to quell a moral issue. It’s because some athletes think they are ‘dangerous’ and don’t want to use them that they are banned. In so doing, an unequal playing field has been created! You take something that is readily available to any athlete who wants it and ban it because certain athletes don’t want to use it. The objective of an athlete should be to win. Whatever it takes. To try to limit that in favor of athletes who simply don’t want to do whatever it takes is horribly unfair to the athlete who wants to leave no stone unturned when it comes to being the best.

The Bodybuilder’s Burden: Death, Steroids, and Public Perception

2023 Olympia Men's Bodybuilding comparisons
Kent Leckie

Imagine if bodybuilders were vilified, outed, and prosecuted for using steroids like the baseball players were. No one would be over 250. Bodybuilding is the most overtly steroid-dependent sport on the planet, bar none by a country mile. Yet, the top three at the Olympia have yet to be hauled before Congress and grilled about the audacity of their steroid use, the character-destroying message it sends our precious youth, and the assault on the public trust that the players are following the rules! And the bodybuilders are like, ‘Rules? What rules? We have rules?’ And therein lies the rub, people care about the sanctity of baseball. No one gives a rat’s ass about bodybuilding. Therefore, bodybuilding is the de facto unlimited class in sports. Run what ya brung, no limits, bring on the horsepower and the displacement. Do whatever it takes.

Then somebody dies.

Oh boy… what a cacophony of impeccable ignorance follows. First, for some reason, once you become a bodybuilder you’re not allowed to die. Ever. If you dare have the audacity to wander off this earth anytime before your 700th birthday, the cause had to be some lurid aspect of bodybuilding, most likely from steroids. If a bowler dies, it’s never from the hot dogs and beer; if a golfer dies, it’s never from riding the golf cart and drinking whiskey; if a basketball player dies, it’s never from the cocaine and partying all night. But, if a bodybuilder dies, it was the drugs. Period. No other acceptable answer.

Next, to hammer that point home, comes the parade of twenty-something-year-old internet bro-scientists, whose credentials are their post counts. These guys know absolutely nothing. Yet, they will, with authority and impunity, state that the cause of death, without ever knowing a single thing about the decedent, his health, his family history, toxicology reports, or autopsy, was from steroids. And their followers swoon. It’s probably one of the most pathetic and predictable sequences of events I frequently encounter. Tragic too. Because it highlights an incredible wave of acceptable ignorance in society. These people are blind, and they are not only arguing the sky is green with yellow stripes but their followers cheer them on!

The reason? Steroids are bad, m’kay. They got that way long before these authoritative blowhards were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. It was because steroids had infiltrated the great American pastime and gave it a black eye and put asterisks in its record books. The media cried in outrage and sensationalized every aspect of steroid use.

The Hooton Narrative: Exploiting Tragedy for Fame and Financial Gain

Then they got Taylor Hooton, who tragically took his life on July 15, 2003. Suddenly their cause had a face. Hooton was a young, good-looking, high school baseball player who, according to his family, had begun using anabolic steroids in an attempt to enhance his athletic performance. His suicide became a focal point in discussions about the dangers of steroid use among young athletes, and his father, Don Hooton, became an advocate for raising awareness about the risks of PEDs in sports. Don Hooton testified at the congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball in 2005, sharing his son’s story and advocating for stricter measures to combat doping in sports. Unfortunately, it was based on a lie.

The fact that Taylor had been taken off his mild Nandrolone cycle cold turkey and prescribed the anti-depressant Lexapro – a drug with a black box warning stating the drug is known to cause suicidal ideation in adolescent patients – was never mentioned. The Taylor Hooton suicide has been dissected numerous times over the last decade by numerous clinicians, scientists, and healthcare professionals amassing quite a bit of peer-reviewed and published data. Here’s a brief synopsis of the published material by Dr. Jack Darkes:

‘Taylor Hooton reportedly colored his hair and looked twice when he passed a mirror and was always concerned about his looks. In combination with a reported desire to be bigger suggests potential body dissatisfaction which is associated with both AAS use and suicide as a form of ‘socially-prescribed perfectionism.’ He had low self-esteem, a family history of depression (mother), a suicide attempt (sister) and was taking anti-depressant medication (Lexapro). His AAS use was allegedly motivated by wanting to excel at baseball, although some sources have suggested it had more to do with personal appearance and status.’

To date, there is no published data in the medical literature that suggests steroid use, or cessation of steroid use, by itself, incites suicidal ideation. Just the words of Don Hooton stating, ‘I know it was the steroids that got him.’ Transcendental science if I ever heard it.

Fact is, the journals are rife with data demonstrating suicidal ideation in adolescent patients treated with SSRIs. So, with so much statistical data against him, why has Hooton been blaming steroids and not SSRIs? Why is he picking on steroids, scientifically the least likely of culprits? Why is he campaigning so hard to demonize them?

Usa Congress Steroids Hearing - Mar 2005
Matthew Cavanaugh/EPA / Shutterstock

Because, with such a vocal steroid attack in the wake of your son’s suicide, you not only get to testify before Congress during the baseball hearings but also twice more. You get to start a non-profit foundation in your son’s name and guilt guys such as MLB president Bud Selig into donating a million dollars on behalf of MLB. Then you name yourself president and decide to pay yourself up to 32% of the millions you take in to run the foundation. You get to have Mark McGwire personally apologize to you. You get to go all over the country sounding like an expert getting your picture in the paper and being named Texas Sports Personality of the Year by the Dallas Morning News. You don’t get that going after SSRIs. Steroids made Don Hooton a celebrity. Steroids made Hooton a lot of money. Suing the makers of Lexapro would have gotten him less than nothing.

The absolute garbage being proffered by guys such as Don Hooton is only eclipsed by the money they’re making doing it. Proof, I’ll reckon, is the fact that since Taylor Hooton’s suicide almost two decades ago, the scientific community has still not assigned ‘anabolic steroids’ as the cause of one single teen suicide. Yet Hooton is out there raking in millions preaching that it could still happen because – despite mountains of evidence to the contrary – Don says he knows that his son died from them. I’m sure Hooton is claiming this statistic as his victory. The only thing more revolting than Hooton’s mission is the abject moron who supports him. Unfortunately, there are more than a few living in the land of the blind.

But, as with all things that don’t bear fruit, Don is losing ground. The alarmists have lost much credibility from parent groups calling creatine a steroid and Hooton proclaiming that veteran actor Tom Hanks opened a show on Broadway ‘high on steroids’ for having had a cortisone shot in his injured hand. Don sounds a bit desperate.

Challenging the Steroid Stigma

I could go on and on and, like I said before, write a book on the topic. There’s still sprinter Ben Johnson’s debacle, Lyle Alzado’s death, wrestler Chris Benoit who killed his family then himself… and much more. There are just so many fake reports out there it’s difficult to contain them all. Suffice to say, however, the media isn’t done. The fear-mongering will never subside. It is clearly the media that is complicit in spreading the false narrative that not only denigrates the benefits of steroids in favor of the mock horror stories, as well as hampering the use of steroids for anti-aging and other health-related benefits. Just like marijuana, steroids had been given an erroneous bad rap from supposedly trusted sources.

And that brings us full circle. This is why you believe steroids are bad and kill or maim all who take them. Congratulations, you have been brainwashed by the media. Anyone who would take Greg’s gallbladder issues and automatically assign them to steroid use proves it.

#Romano #Steroids #Arent #Villain

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