Baseball: Mark McGwire admits to steroid use

By Paul Hurst

Mark McGwire

Former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire has admitted to his use of performance enhancing drugs, eight years after his retirement as a player.

In a statement, he finally admitted that he used PEDs during much of his major league career, and made an apology for the first time.

McGwire’s admission is in stark contrast to his appearance in front of Congress in March 2005, where, after breaking down in tears, he refused to talk about the subject. That appearance is remembered for his now-famous “I’m not here to talk about the past” quote, for which he was ridiculed by the media and fans alike.

McGwire is best remembered for the remarkable 1998 season, where after being pushed all the way by Sammy Sosa, he broke Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, hitting 70 home runs. The 1998 season is widely credited with bringing baseball back into the public imagination after the crippling 1994 strike. However it was also the season questions about McGwire’s PED use began to surface.

During that season, reporter Steve Wilstein spotted a jar of the steroid androstenedione – known as ‘andro’ – in McGwire’s locker. At the time, the substance was banned by the WADA and the NFL, but not by MLB. Though it was legal at the time – not becoming a controlled substance in the US until 2004 – the fact it was banned by other elite sporting bodies was just another piece of evidence for fans claiming MLB’s anti-doping policies were far too lax. McGwire’s denial of usage at the time indicated that, although it not being against the rules, was certainly morally suspect.

Somewhat curiously, many writers, who have spent years clamouring for an admission from McGwire, are now using the admission as a stick to beat him with. He has not helped himself on this count with the subsequent interview he gave to ESPN. Though he intimated that he had taken other substances, in addition to andro, he declined to name exactly what they were. This simply creates more questions than answers.

He maintains that his steroid usage did not help him to hit home runs, claiming he only took them for ‘health purposes’. Many are unimpressed with the perceived self-pity he is still displaying, in particular stating “I wish I had never played during the steroid era”. A fair response to such a statement would be that such pity should be reserved for those players who never took anything during their career, but have had their reputations tainted by playing in this era.

The timing of Mark McGwire’s admission probably comes down to a couple of factors. He is shortly due to start in his new job as hitting coach for the St Louis Cardinals. It also seems likely that it is linked to the recent the recent 2010 Hall Of Fame voting, where McGwire once again fared poorly in voting, perhaps due in part to his previous refusal to address the subject.

St Louis manager Tony La Russa, also in charge back during McGwire’s stint with the club, has publicly commended him for his admission, as has MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Whether the writers who control McGwire’s Hall Of Fame destiny will be so forgiving remains to be seen.


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