Baseball's McGwire Admits Using Steroids

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Baseball slugger Mark McGwire admits that he used steroids when he broke the Major League's home run record in 1998. He released a statement today, saying, "I wish I had never touched steroids." McGwire was hired in recent months as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Tom Goldman.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There is big news today out of Major League Baseball. Big, but not especially surprising news. Mark McGwire admitted that he used steroids. The former single-season homerun champion made that disclosure in a statement to the Associated Press. McGwire is preparing to return to baseball as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: McGwire's statement came in response, not so much to appeal to us as say it ain't so, Mark, as to say it so already. What did he say?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Here's some of what he said. He said: I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989-1990 offseason and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the '90s, including during the 1998 season. That, Robert, as you remember, was the year of McGwire's thrilling season-long homerun duel with Sammy Sosa.

And then he continues: I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era - kind of an interesting statement there. He also said he used human growth hormone, which is banned in baseball. McGwire hit 583 career homeruns, tied for eight on the all-time list with Alex Rodriguez, who also admitted steroid use within the last year.

And McGwire finally said: I'm sure people will wonder if I could've hit all those homeruns had I never taken steroids. Now, Robert, people will wonder. I think a lot of baseball writers have decided, no, which is why they'll never vote for him or any other guys from the so-called steroid era for induction into the Hall Of Fame.

SIEGEL: Responses from Major League Baseball, from others to his statement today?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, they're pouring in. Major League Baseball Bud - Commissioner Bud Selig who reveled in that 1998 homerun duel between McGwire and Sosa because it basically saved baseball. Selig released a statement today saying he's pleased McGwire confronted his use of banned drugs, that he used the opportunity - Selig used the opportunity to talk about how baseball has toughened up its drug testing program, calling it the toughest, most effective in pro sports. He said the steroid era clearly is a thing of the past and McGwire's admission is another step in the right direction.

And then McGwire's former manager, Tony LaRussa, who managed McGwire in Oakland and then St. Louis, who was around Mark McGwire as much as anyone in baseball, he said today on ESPN that he ran a legit program in both places and that he didn't know anything about Mark McGwire's drug use until Mark McGwire told him this morning.

SIEGEL: LaRussa, which should be noted, I believe, went to law school if I'm not mistaken, saying that even after 2005, he didn't suspect that McGwire was using banned drugs when everybody else in the country did.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that would've isolated him. Certainly everyone did because of that now infamous Congressional hearing on steroids when Mark McGwire said repeatedly, I'm not here to talk about the past. It was embarrassing, it was damming. He fell out of the public eye then, only to reemerge now.

SIEGEL: What do you make of the statement by McGwire that baseball's drug problems are in the past. You think that's true?

GOLDMAN: Well, what Selig says, that there are now fewer positive tests for steroids and that baseball has a tougher drug testing program. That is true. Tougher program, I might add, because baseball was strong-armed into doing it by Congress. Selig also talks about the tiny percentage of minor leaguers testing positive. All I know, Robert, is that I get regular releases from Major League Baseball showing a steady stream of suspensions for powerful steroids, big clusters of suspensions in Latin American Minor Leagues, in particular. It maybe better, but steroids in baseball, hardly a thing of the past.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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