No matter where I look, this steroid controversy keeps popping up. Most recently is the Lance Armstrong thing and my highlight on some strong evidence against Lance’s claims of innocence. Now there is this Jose Canseco claim where he points out that steroids did not help his identical twin brother become a superstar athlete, thus, implying that steroids are given too much credit for an athlete’s success.
Last week, at tracking.si.com, there was a short excerpt from Jose Canseco about steroids, one that truly needs further examination. Without doing so, my fear is that people will read things into his statement that are simply…not there.
To get started, let’s take a closer look at what Jose Canseco was quoted as saying:
“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it a million times if I have to: Steroids and other supplements don’t make you a super athlete. I have proof: my identical twin brother, Ozzie. Genetically… He used the same type of steroids I used and in equal amounts, and we followed the same workout routine and diet. So why was he just an average player?.. I think it’s so hypocritical when athletes are found to be using steroids, the media frames it like they’d be nothing without the juice.”
This may come as a surprise to many but, in essence, I believe his statement to be true.
Yes, I did say that. As Jose infers, I don’t believe that you can take a non-athlete, or average athlete (at any level) for that matter, and turn them into a superstar with injections of anabolic steroids. In fact, I would go further to say that this is also true with any current illegal PED (unless there is something out there I am not aware of).
So now you must be asking yourself, but Kirk…you have said that taking illegal PED’s change a person into something they are not, something they were never intended to be. That they change the user’s biological chemistry so that they are able to reach levels of performance that they would not possibly be able to reach without the use of these substances. You have even said that if you take two identical twins who have the same passion, work ethic, willingness to sacrifice, inner will and determination, focus, heart, etc. (those intrinsic qualities any great athlete will need), and those two athletes put in the same amount of effort into the same thing, with the only difference being that one uses illegal PED’s and the other does not, that the non-using twin will never catch the using twin in ability.
And you know what? I still believe that to be true as well.
“What,” you say, “how is that possible?”
Sometimes it is important to dissect the words on the page to get at the root of what is being said. Take Jose Canseco’s quoted statement above. There is no way to tell if his brother, even though he is his identical twin, had all the intrinsic components (desire, commitment, dedication, work ethic, inner will and determination, focus, etc.) every great athlete needs to achieve athletic excellence. Based on his statement, we don’t even know whether they focused on the same position (surely an important piece to know).
It is a false premise to believe, and I think this is what Jose is saying, that one can just take the “juice” and become a great athlete. There are just way too many other essential variables that must enter into the equation for that to happen; identical twin or not.
However, and this is absolutely critical, illegal PED’s do allow for an athlete (as an individual) to reach levels of performance they, personally, could never reach without them. They open up a door to a higher plateau that did not exist before their use. The athlete still has to bring to the table all that they would have before to go through that door. They cannot do less and expect to reach that higher plateau.
And herein lies the credibility to my statements and quote above. You see, it is important to ask the right question and not get misdirected by statements like Jose is making. I, in my quote, am comparing the non-using identical twin to a using identical twin, something much different than what Jose is doing in his statement.
I am also making the assumption that all the other internal ingredients that give the opportunity for an athlete to become great are in place. Jose does not speak of these in the same way that I am presenting them. He is merely stating that his brother used the same “juice” (in equal amounts) that he did and followed the same training program and nutritional plan.
Secondly, and more importantly, I am speaking mainly about each individual as a separate entity and what those illegal PED’s do for that one individual in artificially furthering their genetic potential—again keeping all other variables constant.
The bottom line is this; Jose Canseco, himself, would not have been the athlete we knew him to be without the illegal substances he was using. If that were the case, why take the risk and use them? Would he have still been considered very good, probably…but great?
And here is the sad part; we (or he) will never know if that was even remotely possible.