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Man with bulging biceps talks steroids

4/29/2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Gregg Valentino is an admitted steroid user, and he achieved a moderate level of fame thanks to his massive 27-inch biceps, dubbed by Ripley's Believe It or Not as the world's biggest.

As big as his muscles are, his personality is equal to the task. He is open, raw and bold enough to say anything that comes to his mind. After he was caught dealing steroids in 2001, his unfettered, brash personality led him to a writing career at Muscular Development Magazine.

Valentino's "Ramblin' Freak" column fits him as snug as a button-down shirt, and it has kept his celebrity alive, giving him a voice on everything from steroids to pop culture. In a recent interview with ESPN, Valentino said too many people are hypocritical when it comes to discussing issues surrounding use of performance-enhancing substances.

"The world would shut down tomorrow if we took away the ultimate performance enhancer: caffeine," he said. "If you stopped everybody from drinking their coffee, taking caffeine, I bet you tomorrow half the people wouldn't be able to function."

Valentino, 48, said he feels bad for athletes who use drugs to achieve at their jobs, apparently succumbing to the pressure to perform.

"A million dollars is a lot for somebody to get to be paid for playing sports," he said. "… You're giving guys 20-somethin' million dollars. … [They're] hittin' the lotto, they have to perform."

But he questions why only drugs are scrutinized so widely, and not other means of enhancing performance.

"[Are] cortisone shots cheating?" Valentino asked. "Is Lasik for the eyes? When these guys get their eyes zapped with laser so they can see the ball better? That's not cheating?"

Some of his most pointed opinions are directed toward Hollywood. He said he thinks hormone replacement therapy is commonly used in the business by people wanting to get into shape or to look more fit and youthful for acting roles. He even points to his childhood idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"He's a very nice guy, OK, and he's a great man. But at the same time, if it wasn't for steroids, you wouldn't even know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is," Valentino said. "He used his movie status to meet celebrities and politicians, and look where he is now. And I'm sayin' to you that without steroids, Arnold Schwarzenegger would be living in Austria, where he's from, just dreaming about what his life would be like. Maybe he'd be a police chief like his father."

Valentino said he would like to see Schwarzenegger, who has spoken out against steroids, help teach the public about the myths and truths of steroid use.

Valentino said he has a new approach to steroids and no longer encourages the illegal use of steroids. He said he feels that as long as the drugs are classified the way they are today, even though he disagrees with the classification, the rewards don't justify the risk.

"I think you're an idiot if you do them," he said, "because if you get caught, you're gonna go to jail."

Albert A. Kahwaty is a producer for "E:60." ESPN reporter Tom Farrey contributed to this report.