Author Will Carroll Interview: The Juice Q&A

Over the past year Steroids have been one of the major points of discussion in baseball, but of the information that has come out on the topic, little of it was informative. The answer to this dilemma has been solved by Will Carroll’s book, “The Juice”. Every facet of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) is covered, as Carroll explores the medical, legal, and production elements of these drugs. The best part of the book are the real stories he tells like a high schooler who is driven to get bigger to succeed in baseball to the Triple A ballplayer who is put in a similar situation. The book also introduces us to a real chemist who develops these PED’s and one of the leading people involved in testing for them. Below is an interview I did with Will this past weekend.

Scott: Well, I won’t start off by asking if there is a moral to the story, since you said you didn’t have one in the book, so let me begin by asking, what was your agenda going into “The Juice.” Oh wait a minute, you also wrote you had no agenda going into the book, so let me start with this. How did this book come about in the first place?

WC: I really resisted writing this book. With STP, I really enjoyed the process. I got to know a lot of pitching coaches and learned more about pitching than I ever knew existed. With this book, I met a lot of people that I didn’t want to believe existed. It was something of a depressing process, but when the book wasn’t already there, it’s hard to say it wasn’t important enough to write. I thought with STP that maybe I could keep one kid (or Carlos Zambrano) from hurting their arm. With this book, it’s possible the effect could be greater.

Scott: You have some blurbs on the back of “The Juice”, by great writers like Allen Barra, Ira Berkow, and Rob Neyer. If you were to give a blurb of your book, what would it be?

WC: “The first holistic look at the problem that baseball – and society – has a limited time to deal with. If drugs are changing the game on the field, it’s doing more off the field. Before testing becomes irrelevant, read The Juice and start the solution.”

Scott: The greatest impression the book left me with was the completely delusional idea the public has that there is an easy solution to steroids. If you were the Baseball Pope and could determine the direction MLB should go on drug testing, what would be your rules?

WC: Easy one – more research, more education. Baseball spent less on all research than it did on one first-year player at the minimum salary. PSAs, educational programs, assistance for college and high school testing – there’s so much that could be done in a cost-effective manner, not to mention the return on investment is amazing. Beyond that, I would have a “drug czar” agreed on by MLB and the players that could be out front and handling the PR. The public doesn’t trust Selig or Fehr on this issue. Give me a C. Everett Koop type.

Scott: I was very interested in your chapter on Amphetamines. Only recently has there been much discussion about their role in the game. They have been a regular part of baseball culture since the 1960’s, but the homerun hitters of the past aren’t seen as cheaters, because their effects didn’t make the players physically bigger. Could you explain how amphetamines aid players?

WC: They’re awake, which for some players is really a problem. They’re flying cross country, they have odd schedules, and they’re young millionaires – would you sleep? Add in the effect that they feel better – stronger, quicker, invulnerable – and that there’s no testing, why wouldn’t they use it? There’s no disincentive. Even if uppers – and let’s include some of the advanced drugs like strattera, adderall, and provigil in here – aren’t banned, there should be some sort of program telling of the dangers, like they do with spit tobacco.

Scott: One of the most important points you bring up in “The Juice” is that there are so few clinical studies on steroids. Has there been a study demonstrating that steroids help recover from injuries? I bring this up, since San Diego Chargers first round draft pick, Luis Castillo, tested positive and said he used to rehab an injury.

In some circles, the NFL has come off as acting pious about their steroid program versus Major League Baseball. What are your thoughts on the NFL drug-testing program?

WC: Castillo was using androstendione, a substance that has limited efficacy, especially for rehab. James Toney, the boxer, recently tested positive for deca used when he was rehabbing from a torn biceps. Looking at the athletes that have tested positive in baseball, many of them were returning from injury. The NFL’s policy is great PR without great results. If you really believe that less than 40 football players in the last 15 years used steroids – or any of the extensive list of banned substances – then I have a bridge you might be interested in. Baseball needs a lot of the PR help – heck, why don’t they do what the NFL did and bring in experts like Mark Verstegen to help?

Scott: One thing you don’t get into in the book is the NBA’s testing program. I would argue that of all the major sports leagues, the NBA has seen the greatest change in physical bodies over the past 10 years. Combining the increased physical play and intense schedule the league puts it’s players through, it would seem the NBA players would be just as likely as baseball players to be using steroids. OK, that’s my pontification on the subject, where are your thoughts on the NBA and steroids?

WC: It’s a great point and the fact was that the NBA wouldn’t cooperate. I’d be very interested in knowing more. With the NBA’s marketing muscle, why haven’t they developed the grassroots support like blogs or faced the same type of questions? I think you’re right – the NBA would be a place I’d expect to see the use of steroids for rehab and HGH, especially in younger players. Of course, they haven’t done real well with their marijuana policy, so what should we expect?

Scott: One of the most eye-opening chapters is your interview with drug tester, Dr. David Black. This chapter really illuminates the challenges of staying on top of testing for all banned substances and how expensive it is to do a quality job. Could you explain this in more detail?

WC: I think the chapter lays it out there. Dr. Black is amazing and really saved me. I had conducted and written that chapter with MLB’s chief drug tester when at the last minute, MLB pulled their permission for him to talk to me. While I felt I could have published it, I didn’t want to put him in dutch with his employer. Funding is the big problem – sports needs to use some of their millions to give Dr. Black better equipment, more people, more time, and more research. If Trevor Graham hadn’t been jealous, THG would still be out there – well, kind of. We still don’t have tests for the drugs that the “Dr X’s” of the world have put out in the past couple years.

Scott: The chapter that has gotten the most attention, such as an excerpt in Sports Illustrated, was entitled “The Creator”. Briefly tell us who he is and how you got in contact with him.

WC: Who he is … gotta pass on that one, Scott. It’s honestly not that hard to find these people. I’d originally thought that I would find some guy selling steroids in a gym and use him as that angle, but that’s not the real face of the drug problem. It’s the chemists that are coming up with these amazing substances right out in the open. It kept coming back to me in my research that we knew what these drugs were, who was distributing them, and who was using, but we didn’t know where they came from. In digging, I kept getting closer and closer and finally, he contacted me through an anonymous email server that’s used throughout the anabolic underground. Once I confirmed that he was who he said he was – and yes, I have a high degree of confidence that he is who he said he is and did what he said he did – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Scott: I’d be curious to know if you have heard from “The Creator”, since the book has come out?

WC: First, I’d like to note that “Creator” wasn’t the orginal title for him. It was “Chemist”. When Canseco put that on the back of his book, I didn’t want any confusion. Creator implies some kind of primacy and he is not the person that invented this drug. The idea that BALCO is the one place that sells there or that there’s only one guy that could do what was done is so naïve. There’s at least three other people I know of that have done similar things and are selling the substances. When you look closely at the BALCO situation, it’s amazing how little it took, how little money was involved, and how much there was to gain. Conte wasn’t making money off the cream and the clear, he was making it off selling zinc and magnesium – products available still. (www.snac.com)

Scott: While you wrote the majority of the book, you had help in writing a few of the chapters. What made you decide to invite others into the writing process?

WC: I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a geneticist. I’m not a statistician. The people I brought in were at the top of their fields and give a level of depth that I was not going to be able to do, no matter how much I dug in and educated myself. I was lucky to have the opportunity to use them and they deserve so much credit for making the book what it is. The other consideration was time. We pushed this book hard and I simply wouldn’t have been able to make my deadline without their help.

Scott: Your father is the biggest contributor to the book, writing 4 chapters of “The Juice”. How did you come to eliciting his help and what is it like editing your Dad’s copy?

WC: As an educator, medical professional, and someone that’s contributed to textbooks, he was an easy choice. Plus, he worked cheap! I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – have done this book without his involvement. A lot of people get to dedicate a book to their dad; I get to do a book with him. Editing his copy was tough. He writes academically and medically, but I also think he did a good job aiming at the audience and keeping what can be very dry material interesting. The history chapter is great – it’s a series of “wow, I didn’t know that!” moments for me and really opens your eyes. This is not a new problem.

Scott: The one problem I had with the book was that you and your Dad had some differing points of view or at least differing degrees on the effects of steroids. For example, he brings up the story of Taylor Hooten, as a cautionary tale against steroid use. He also mentions that the US government should get more involved in regulating professional sports drug testing. Both of these points of view are somewhat different from viewpoints I have heard you speak on or write about. What are your thoughts on this observation?

WC: We’re different people with different viewpoints and opinions. I think when he talks about involvement of the government, he’s talking about very different things than have been proposed. He asks where the follow-up from Bush’s State of the Union is. He asks where the national “drug czar” is on this issue. As for Hooton, I think that’s a valid point. Any steroid use in high school athletes is a problem. The use of Don Hooton’s son’s death to advance a viewpoint is what bothers me, especially when it’s Don Hooton doing it. I wish that guy would agree to debate this issue with me. Anytime, anyplace, any venue, Don.

Scott: One of the sadder stories in the book is about a high school pitcher you’ve worked with, who’s taking a form of the Human Growth Hormone to get bigger. If you were trying to get a physical edge on the competition, what legal supplements would you take?

WC: Pass. One of the things I refuse to turn this book or any discussion around it into is a how-to manual. If someone wants to get bigger or better, they need to have their coaches and doctors involved in the process.

Scott: Your last chapter is entitled “How to Save the Game”. So, How do we save the game?

WC: The game’s really not in that much danger. Our society is, however. We’re at this crux, this small window in history where the debate is open and testing is still a possibility. If we can come up with more research, more education, and more facts, we can show athletes that there are legal, healthy ways to reach their goals. In the very near future, testing will be moot and we’ll all have to change the way we look at sport. Are we going to be willing to watch genetic freaks who have altered DNA play sports? I’m not sure how we’ll deal with that, so we’d better take the opportunity we have and use it constructively.

Scott: Finally, since much of Jose Canseco’s book sales were based on salacious stories and wild accusations, I’d like to give you the chance here to offer your own. For example did any 80’s dance divas try to seduce you or have you ever shot up any fellow Baseball Prospectus writers with any substances in a bathroom stall? The public wants to know.

WC: I thought that Debbie Gibson and I had a thing, but I accidentally called her Tiffany in the heat of the moment and things went south from there. Debbie, if you’re out there, call me — and lift the restraining order.

As for BP, it’s clearly a sea of performance enhancers. We have people working on calculus crank and algebra amphetamines all the time. We just say that Ben Murphy was brought in for his tech skills, but I think he’s the one that came up with purple elixir crystal over transient acid.

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