Canseco: Steroids are overrated

WASHINGTON -- The relationship between Jose Canseco and steroids has soured. All these years later, Canseco says he regrets his hearty appetite for performance enhancers, linking them to his premature exit from the game, to his employment and financial woes, to his current sterility.

All those needles and vials apparently have come with a cost. And, sounding much like someone eager to lead a "Just Say No" campaign, Canseco offers up this clincher: Steroids are vastly overrated.

"These kids don't need steroids to become players," Canseco says. "We overemphasize the steroids and not the athletic ability and skills of these people. We're taking away the hard work the athlete puts in and saying he became great just because of steroids.

"Let me give you a perfect example. I have an identical twin brother, Ozzie. He is the closest thing to me genetically. And in my prime I was a super athlete. I was the fastest guy in the game. I was 240 pounds and I could hit a baseball 600 feet. The best arm in the game. My twin brother used the same chemicals, same workouts, the same nutrition. Why didn't he make it in the big leagues?

"That is the perfect example that we are giving steroids way too much credit. If steroids are that great it would have made him a superstar."

At 45, Canseco still has the freaky physique of a pro wrestler, 250 pounds packed on a 6-foot-4 frame. It's a body he fervently works to maintain, as he dabbles trying to make a buck in boxing and mixed martial arts. But even as a baseball athlete, Canseco says he didn't need to resort to performance-enhancing drugs simply to bulk up, rather for the strength and stamina to get through a long season.

During an interview Wednesday, in a reflective moment, Canseco suggests he wouldn't be called Thursday before the grand jury considering a perjury indictment against ex-teammate Roger Clemens if not for his ties to steroids. Nor would he have penned two tell-all books, "Juiced" and "Vindicated" -- neither of which won him many friends in baseball and may lead to a third possible tome, tentatively titled "The Truth Hurts: It Destroyed My Life."

Canseco refers to himself repeatedly as the "modern-day Frankenstein," the ostracized, juiced-up player who blew the whistle on baseball's drug problem. He can't sniff a job in baseball. He mentions a desire to manage in the big leagues, to mentor young players and share his experiences -- but that isn't happening anytime soon. And he hasn't had much luck outside the game, either, in part, he says, because he's perceived as a snitch.

"People are afraid to deal with me," says Canseco, who credits his revelations for baseball's tougher stand on steroids. "I've been trying to get into the entertainment industry, acting industry. Maybe some martial arts roles. Producers didn't want to touch me. When I wrote the book they categorized me as a snitch right away. So in other industries I cannot be touched. It has been horrible for me. I can't have any relations in Major League Baseball."

Canseco mentions that a bat manufacturer inquired about his participating in a celebrity softball home run derby later this month, but says folks backed away because it was to be held at the Tampa Bay Rays facility in St. Petersburg.

Instead, he's taken a gig writing a weekly online sports column for rotoinfo.com and has pursued look-at-me boxing and mixed martial arts matches, the latest possibility being with former NFL star and fellow fitness freak Herschel Walker.

"I definitely regret getting involved with steroids in any way shape or form, No. 1, as a [teenager]," Canseco says. "No. 2 is writing a book against Major League Baseball, because I have been living a life of basically terror ever since my book 'Juiced' came out. Whether it be emotionally, financially, it is just terrible. People have to understand that I've been the only individual that has paid the price for the use of steroids, when other players have been given a slap on the hand, some games off, and some are still getting $100 million deals. They are still being protected by Major League Baseball. They are still being given a job after the fact, for example Mark McGwire [hitting instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals]."

And, of course, there is the health price to be paid for long-term steroid usage -- feeling run down, the loss of a sex drive. In 2008, Canseco made news when he was nabbed at the San Diego border crossing trying to bring in a fertility drug from Mexico. Canseco claims the drug was to be used as part of hormone replacement therapy, a result of his inability to produce testosterone because of his prolonged use of steroids.

These days, Canseco says his testosterone levels are monitored regularly by a UCLA endocrinologist.

"When I went cold turkey [with steroids] my testosterone levels dropped to the ground, because my own system doesn't produce testosterone anymore," Canseco explains. "Obviously what that causes is sterility. I don't produce my own testosterone. So what they have me on now is testosterone therapy. They give me certain injections at certain times to level off my testosterone so that I have average testosterone levels."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.