McGwire Finally Admits Steroids Helped His Game

Mark McGwire now admits what many people assumed: He used steroids for much of his baseball career. In 1998, he set a record for most home runs hit in a season. McGwire called his use of steroids "foolish" and "a mistake." He's been hired by the St. Louis Cardinals to be their hitting coach and figured he had to say something before spring training begins.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Deborah Amos.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Mark McGwire now admits what many people had assumed - he used steroids for much of his baseball career. And that includes 1998, when he set a record for most home runs hit in a season.

Mr. MARK MCGWIRE (Former Major League Baseball Player): I wish theyd never came into my life, but were sitting here talking about it. Im so sorry that I have to. I apologize to everybody in Major League Baseball, my family, the Marises, Bud Selig. Today was the hardest day of my life.

INSKEEP: Mark McGwire, speaking to Bob Costas on the MLB Network. Were going to talk more about this this morning with NPRs sports correspondent Mike Pesca.

Mike, good morning.

MIKE PESCA. Hi.

INSKEEP: McGwire sounds quite emotional there. But he phrased everything very carefully or seemed to. For example, saying that his admission would, quote, "confirm what people have suspected." Why phrase it that way?

PESCA: Well, it goes back to his prodigious feats, especially in 1998. As you mentioned, he hit 70 home runs. In that season, a reporter noticed a bottle of androstenedione, which everyone now nicknames andro, which is a pre-steroid. It was allowed by baseball but banned by all other - most other sports agencies in the world, doping association.

And the debate on McGwire became, well, was it okay for him to hit all these home runs on what is a pre-steroid, a substance that would later be banned? That andro sort of became a flypaper. Later on, it was revealed that he was probably doing steroids-steroids, not some sort of murky pre-steroid area. And the New York Daily News reported his entire history of what he took and how much he took.

And in 2005, he was called before Congress. He was to answer these questions about steroids. And all he said was Im not here to talk about the past. He said it so often, he didn't say it skillfully. He was mocked.

And it was revealed in his interview with Bob Costas that hours before that hearing he had met with the congressmen and he said, as he reported to Bob Costas, I wanted to come clean. I guess they couldnt work out an agreement. So all he had been saying up to this point was Im not here to talk about the past, and then he went away in shame.

INSKEEP: Okay. So thats what happened in the past. But now hes made this statement. What has he admitted to precisely here?

PESCA: So now that he is here to talk about the past, he says he doesnt know what kind of steroids he took. But he does say he took them throughout the 90s, including 1998. And the weirdest thing about his interview and his admission was that he says steroids didn't help him hit home runs.

INSKEEP: Yeah. I mean, the statement that its about his health rather than his strength, is that any real distinction?

PESCA: See - it is a distinction. To hear him say it, it seems like he regarded steroids like maybe a super ibuprofen or something, something that helped -something that kept him healthy. And of course health is really important. And he was very - although he was injured when he was taking steroids. But you know, health is an important skill also.

But you know, Bob Costas pressed him. He said, but strength is a part of hitting home runs. And he just went to this by-now-discredited notion that strength isnt what makes you a home run hitter. You need timing. You need hand-eye coordination. I had those things in spades.

He seemed to not get the necessary and sufficient distinction that strength isnt all you need to hit home runs, but how could you say it didn't help him hit home runs? Bob Costas really pressed him on this point. It was an interview sort of geared towards future Hall of Fame voters and stat geeks. And McGwire didn't provide answers that went beyond, you know, I just had good timing and I was good at my hand-eye coordination.

INSKEEP: Now, from what you just said, we can infer one reason Mark McGwire might come clean at this moment. You said future Hall of Fame. Hes not in the Hall of Fame yet, despite all those home runs. Is there any other reason he would come clean now as it were?

PESCA: Right. Besides the Hall of Fame, which he isnt getting even close to, although the statistics say he should, he will be the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals next year.

And he knew hed have to answer many, many questions or else be a distraction to the team. So he had to find a forum to talk a little bit about his past. And thats what he did in his statement and his interview last night.

INSKEEP: Mike, always good to talk with you.

PESCA: Good to talk to you too.

INSKEEP: Thats NPRs sports correspondent Michael Pesca.

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