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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Confessing The Juice -- Mr. McGwire

As the entire sports world knows at last, as if most haven't known for close to the last five years, Mark McGwire used steroids and human growth hormone while playing Major League Baseball. The use alleged started before the 1990 season and included the year he broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998. According to McGwire, "It was a wrong thing what I did. I totally regret it. I just wish I was never in that era."

Yet, Mark McGwire did play major league baseball in "that era" of steroid abuse. And, now, he is apologizing for his actions, though he is refusing to apologize for his statistics. He claims the steroid use did not contribute to his great home run hitting years.

According to McGwire's statement, his usage of PEDs spanned a large portion of his career, which included parts or all of 16 seasons. He also told Bob Costas of MBN that he tried human growth hormone "once, twice maybe." His first full season in the Majors was 1987, so McGwire acknowledges beginning to use after his third full season. The 1993 campaign was the first in which he played fewer than 139 games, as he was limited by foot injuries.

"I did it [for] health purposes," McGwire told Costas. "If you look at my career, injured '93, '94, '95, '96, I was a walking M*A*S*H unit." He said repeatedly that he did not believe the drugs had increased his ability to play once he took the field. Are you looking for contradictory statements?

Ronald Blum in an APNewsBreak ("Mark McGwire Admits Using Steroids," January 11 2010) reported that McGwire had wanted to come forward at the congressional hearing on March 17, 2005, when he sat alongside Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, who denied using steroids but tested positive for one later that year.

"I wanted to get this off my chest, I wanted to move on, but unfortunately immunity was not granted," McGwire said. McGwire's lawyers, Mark Bierbower and Marty Steinberg, told him that if he made any admission, he could be charged with a crime and that he, his family and friends could be forced to testify before a grand jury. "That was the worst 48 hours of my life, going through that, but I had to listen to the advice of my attorneys," he said.

To make the hearings more unbearable according to McGwire, he knew that Don Hooton, whose son had died from steroids use, was in the audience. "Every time I'd say, `I'm not going to talk about the past,' I'd hear moanings back there. It was absolutely ripping my heart out," McGwire said, his voice cracking. "All I was worried about was protecting my family and myself. And I was willing to take the hit."

The fact is McGwire's declaration 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. Is he referring to the reputation of purposeful lying one might ask.

"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." Still, he sounded as if criticism had scarred his pride built during his major league career beginning with the 1987 Rookie of the Year Award and continuing through his selection as a 12-time All-Star.

"There's no way a pill or an injection will give you hand-eye coordination or the ability or the great mind that I've had as a baseball player," he said. "I was always the last one to leave. I was always hitting by myself. I took care of myself." Apparently, "taking care of himself" included injections and oral consumption of anabolic steroids, not proper rest and treatment.

Commissioner Bud Selig praised McGwire, saying, "This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark's re-entry into the game much smoother and easier."

A Few Considerations of Contrition

1. First all, this is the same Bud Selig who even in spite of urging by Hank Aaron and a growing number of influential Hall-of-Famers to pardon Pete Rose insists baseball's all-time hit king remain permanently ineligible, persona non grata, shunned by the major leagues.

Why? Bill Madden of the New York Daily News (July 27, 2009) said, "(Selig's) legacy is enveloped by the scourge of steroids in baseball that occurred on his watch as commissioner. He is desperately trying to position himself as the commissioner who rid the game of steroids, while distancing himself from the commissioner who celebrated the record-breaking achievements of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa along with everyone else."

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