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Archive for Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Silence is broken: McGwire admits to using steroids for nearly a decade

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire bats against the New York Mets in spring training in this file photo from March 14, 1998, in Jupiter, Fla. McGwire on Monday admitted to using steroids on and off for almost a decade.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire bats against the New York Mets in spring training in this file photo from March 14, 1998, in Jupiter, Fla. McGwire on Monday admitted to using steroids on and off for almost a decade.

January 12, 2010

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— Mark McGwire finally came clean, admitting he used steroids when he broke baseball’s home run record in 1998.

McGwire said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday that he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade.

“It’s very emotional, it’s telling family members, friends and coaches, you know, it’s former teammates to try to get ahold of, you know, that I’m coming clean and being honest,” he said during a 20-minute telephone interview, his voice repeatedly cracking. “It’s the first time they’ve ever heard me, you know, talk about this. I hid it from everybody.”

McGwire said he also used human growth hormone, and he didn’t know if his use of performance-enhancing drugs contributed to some of the injuries that led to his retirement, at age 38, in 2001.

“That’s a good question,” he said.

He repeatedly expressed regret for his decision to use steroids, which he said was “foolish” and caused by his desire to overcome injuries, get back on the field and prove he was worth his multimillion-dollar salary.

“You don’t know that you’ll ever have to talk about the skeleton in your closet on a national level,” he said. “I did this for health purposes. There’s no way I did this for any type of strength use.”

McGwire hit a then-record 70 homers in 1998 during a compelling race with Sammy Sosa, who finished with 66. More than anything else, the home-run spree revitalized baseball following the crippling strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series.

Now that McGwire has come clean, increased glare might fall on Sosa, who has denied using performing-enhancing drugs.

“I wish I had never played during the steroid era,” McGwire said.

McGwire’s decision to admit using steroids was prompted by his decision to become hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, his final big league team. Tony La Russa, McGwire’s manager in Oakland and St. Louis, has been among McGwire’s biggest supporters and thinks returning to the field can restore the former slugger’s reputation.

“I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come,” McGwire said. “It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected.”

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also praised McGwire, saying, “This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark’s re-entry into the game much smoother and easier.”

McGwire became the second major baseball star in less than a year to admit using illegal steroids, following the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last February.

Others have been tainted but have denied knowingly using illegal drugs, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and David Ortiz.

Bonds has been indicted on charges he made false statements to a federal grand jury and obstructed justice. Clemens is under investigation by a federal grand jury trying to determine whether he lied to a congressional committee.

“I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids,” McGwire said. “I had good years when I didn’t take any, and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.”

Big Mac’s reputation has been in tatters since March 17, 2005, when he refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing. Instead, he repeatedly said, “I’m not here to talk about the past” when asked whether he took illegal steroids when he hit a then-record 70 home runs in 1998 or at any other time.

“After all this time, I want to come clean,” he said. “I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it. I’ll do that, and then I just want to help my team.”

“That was the worst 48 hours of my life,” McGwire said.

La Russa immediately praised McGwire’s decision to go public.

“His willingness to admit mistakes, express his regret, and explain the circumstances that led him to use steroids add to my respect for him,” the manager said.

McGwire disappeared from the public eye following his retirement as a player following the 2001 season. When the Cardinals hired the 47-year-old as coach on Oct. 26, they said he would address questions before spring training, and Monday’s statement broke his silence.

“I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 offseason and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again,” McGwire said in his statement. “I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season.”

McGwire said he took steroids to get back on the field, sounding much like the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte two years ago when he admitted using HGH.

“During the mid-’90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years,” McGwire said. “I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years, and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.”

Since the congressional hearing, baseball owners and players toughened their drug program twice, increasing the penalty for a first steroids offense from 10 days to 50 games in November 2005 and strengthening the power of the independent administrator in April 2008, following the publication of the Mitchell Report.

“Baseball is really different now — it’s been cleaned up,” McGwire said. “The commissioner and the players’ association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I’m glad they did.”

Comments

anon1958 4 years, 11 months ago

Did anyone ever doubt he was juiced?

Hank Aaron is the home run king, all these modern records are just frauds.

CLARKKENT 4 years, 11 months ago

GOOD COLUMN TOM--

MCGWIRE, SOSA, BONDS, CLEMONS SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED IN THE HALL. WHAT THEY DID WAS ENHANCED BY ROIDS. .

ANON YOU ARE RIGHT, AARON IS THE HOME RUN KING, AS ROGER MARIS IS THE SINGLE SEASON KING. AT LEAST THEY DID IT FAIR.

WHILE ON MY SOAP BOX, MIGHT I ADD THIS? YES, PETE ROSE DID GAMBLE ON BASEBALL, BUT NEVER ON HIS TEAM. [IF YOU BELIEVE MCGWIRE, YOU GOTTA BELIEVE PETE.] HE WAS A JERK, BUT HE GOT MORE HITS THAN ANYONE EVER PLAYING THE GAME. HE DID IT WITHOUT ROIDS, HE BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME.

Jimo 4 years, 11 months ago

Didn't he who shall not be named testify under oath once to the opposite? Where is the U.S. Attorney on this one?

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

First of all, Pete Rose broke the golden rule in baseball...he should never be allowed in the HOF. If you put him in, you have to put the Black Sox in too.

There were no rules against any of this at the time. What McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Clemens did was legal within the rules of baseball at the time.

Owners and GMs knew this was going on and even encouraged it in some cases (see Ken Caminiti in SD).

I say put them all in the HOF -- they were the best players in their era. We all know they weren't the only ones using. Unfortunately, it was the steroid era and that should be mentioned as well.

You say Aaron and Maris did it clean? How do we know? Were they tested? Players have been using PEDs for decades (this includes greenies aka stimulants) since at least the 1960s.

Bob Gibson did his thing off of a taller mound. Does that what Nolan Ryan did doesn't count anymore?

I say move forward. If people have been caught since the rules have been changed then punish them. Manny got caught last year, but just suspended for 50 games. Is he off the hook now? Should he be banned? Ortiz for being in the Mitchell report?

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

He basically pled the 5th amendment, Jimo. Get your facts straight.

Mihangel 4 years, 11 months ago

What is it with these people. You have your pound of flesh, and now your asking him to crawl around in a hairshirt crying Mea Culpa!  Whatever he did, he's certainly paid more for it than any of the present day roiders like Manny, A-roid, and others that have taken the stuff.  Even AFTER it was explicitly ruled out and drug testing was implemented.  These guys made a public apology, served a suspension, seem to be allowed to move on.  I think it’s time to let it go and get over it.  Sports have been dominated by people looking for an edge forever, especially in baseball. 
Further...if you want to look at PEDs as a whole, then wouldn't anything, from aspirin to cortisone...anything that allows you to play past pain be a PED?   Without painkillers I don't think either football players or baseball players could make it through the season.  Taking roids helps people recover from injuries and conditions that would otherwise prevent them from playing.   They also allow them to perform to their top potential as well, but research has shown abuse of these drugs can have adverse side effects, and therefore are banned.  
Well so do alot of drugs we all take to help us feel or preform better.  Would anyone here tell a doctor not to give them anything to stop pain or reduce swelling so they can go to work?  Is it just the profession that makes the difference?  The blue collar-guy fighting back-strain, or a degenerative/herniated disc isn't denigrated for taking drugs to help him get back to work...so what is the difference people?  In sports, there is no magic pill that makes you better than you are, they might only allow you to play to your highest potential, but you still need to put in the hard work, and have the basic skills and natural talent to excel.  
I’m not making excuses for Mac except to say he was a product of his times.  If it were not for the dangerous side effects, we would not care what players did to help them play better.  It would be akin to drinking Gatorade or Myloplex, or any other of the sports drinks out on the market today.  It was there to help you play the best you could.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Amen, Mihangel. Quit living in the past.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Favre admitted to a codependency on pain killers several years ago. Should we ban him from football?

diplomacy205 4 years, 11 months ago

Babe Ruth did it while drunk. Just think what he'd done sober.

Pete Rose should be in the HoF. I think every player should be paid a certain amount per game if they win and another if they lose. It should be that way in all pro sports.

JerkStore 4 years, 11 months ago

Record books are only there to RECORD what events actually happened, not to be manipulated by the whims of sportswriters.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 11 months ago

For McGuire to say "“I did this for health purposes. There’s no way I did this for any type of strength use.” is like guys who say they buy Playboy for the cartoons. The 'roids and HGH made him stronger and allowed him to avoid and overcome minor injuries and the natural wear and tear of a162 game season. Is he saying to young players that it's ok if you're doing it for health.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

He just kept it a secret until it was int he Mitchell report...so that makes it okay? Screwy logic if you ask me...

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Henry Aaron has acknowledged Bonds as the homerun king. His opinion doesn't matter?

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

I love how everyone makes pro sports out to be this noble platonic ideal where there's honor and glory and blah blah blah.

Truth is, most of these people would be working menial jobs or stuck in the country they came from if they weren't playing pro sports.

Most of the early baseball players were ex-cons and deadbeats. Now we expect all these people who play a game for a living to have morals? To be role models? Give me a break.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

I still worship baseball. It's the greatest game on the planet in my opinion.

Everyone was cheering Big Mac on in 1998...everyone was captivated...why does everyone feel like baseball owes them something?

It's entertainment. Were you not entertained?

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

How many unknown pitchers were also juicing when they faced these guys? How do we know how even or uneven the playing field was?

What if 75% of the league was using? Is it still cheating?

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Sorry to pull you away from the WNBA, Truther.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 4 years, 11 months ago

Admit steroids into the Hall of Fame, and then revise the title.

(Shhh...)

topekan7 4 years, 11 months ago

... lifetime ban from baseball, just for being an ahole! I was never a fan. He was an ahole as an Oakland 'A and his quest to be home run king was a fraud. Once, at Royals Stadium (as it was called in those days) I saw him inadvertently knock a kid to the ground. (This, after the Royals just swept the A's in a three-game series). The kid just wanted an autograph. McGwire didn't apologize or try to help the kid up.

Oh, I know I'm an a__hole, but I never tried to pretend otherwise.

Blog entries

Hank Aaron Weighs In on McGwire by Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

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