Canseco extols `safe' steroids

If used `properly,' drugs can improve life, he writes

McGwire slams allegations

February 15, 2005|By Jeff Barker and Edward Lee | Jeff Barker and Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

In his new book, which hit stores yesterday, Jose Canseco not only names baseball players he says used steroids, but he also mounts a zealous and controversial defense of the drugs' alleged dramatic benefits, offering Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada as a case study.

Canseco, a former American League Most Valuable Player, writes that the big contract Tejada signed with the Orioles before the 2004 season was the product of a "new, pumped-up body" that seemed to come from steroids - though Canseco says he had no firsthand knowledge.

"Tejada set himself up - himself and his family back home in the Dominican Republic," Canseco writes in Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. "All he had to do was make himself bigger and stronger, and for Tejada that paid off."

Canseco said he "can't say for sure" whether Tejada bulked up with steroids but "you have to trust your eyes." He said he couldn't blame Tejada, who was an Oakland Athletics teammate in 1997, if he opted to use steroids to win a big contract and help his "poverty-stricken family."

Tejada's agents, Fernando Cuza and Diego Bentz, could not be reached to comment.

Mark McGwire, the retired slugger and a former teammate of Canseco's, spoke out against the allegations yesterday, denying he had used steroids.

"The relationship that these allegations portray couldn't be further from the truth. ... Once and for all, I did not use steroids or any other illegal substance," McGwire said in a statement.

The most provocative part of Canseco's autobiographical account may not be his allegations that ballplayers used steroids. Rather, it might be his claims that steroids, if used correctly, can safely enhance performance and slow the aging process - and that the drugs will one day be used by everyone.

"As a result, baseball and other sports will be more exciting and more entertaining," Canseco writes. "Human life will be improved, too. We will live longer and better. And maybe we'll love longer and better, too."

Canseco, himself a steroid user, writes: "If you start young enough, when you are in your twenties, thirties and forties, and use steroids properly, you can probably slow the aging process by fifteen or 20 years."

McGwire also addressed these claims in his statement.

"Most concerning to me is the negative effect that sensationalizing steroids will have on impressionable youngsters who dream of one day becoming professional athletes," Mc- Gwire said.

Steroid use has been linked to mood swings and depression, as well as damage to the liver, kidney, heart and sexual organs.

"What scares me is this kind of cowboy chemistry that he [Canseco] has been doing," Charles Yesalis, a Penn State health policy professor and sports-drug expert, said yesterday. "These are exceedingly powerful drugs. If you take them for long periods at a high dose I think you are putting yourself at risk."

Of the drugs' alleged anti-aging capability, Yesalis said: "There's no data at all to demonstrate for anti-aging, but there are data that it will increase sex drive, increase a sense of well-being and keep their muscle mass high."

Yesalis said he agreed with Canseco's claim that baseball has been "complicit" by acting slowly to curb steroid use.

To address steroid concerns, baseball reached an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association last month to rewrite the collective bargaining agreement that's not due to expire until the end of the 2006 season. Under the deal, players will be subject to more tests and stricter penalties.

Canseco says in the book that the players union "had to know the truth" about steroid use in the past and that baseball management erected few roadblocks to steroid use.

When President Bush was the managing general partner of the Texas Rangers franchise in the early 1990s, Bush and Tom Grieve, the general manager, "would have seen all three of those guys [Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez] getting bigger before their eyes, starting within weeks after I joined the team," Canseco says in the book. "But they never made an issue of it, or said anything to me or to any of us about steroids."

The White House has said Bush was unaware of steroid use while he was working in the front office.

Excerpts from the book have previously named Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bret Boone and at least four Orioles, among other players, as possible steroid users. Besides Palmeiro, who has called Canseco's claims "ludicrous," the book goes on to name the Orioles' Tejada, Sammy Sosa, and former Glen Burnie High standout Tony Saunders.

In some cases, more information is contained in the book than what was previously reported in New York Daily News excerpts or described by Canseco on CBS' 60 Minutes.

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