Mark McGwire, former home run king and new Cardinals hitting coach, admitted today that he used steroids during his career. In his statement released to The Associated Press, McGwire said: “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.”
McGwire said he used steroids off and on through the 1990s, including 1998 when he set the single-season home run record. McGwire was hurt quite a lot in his career, and his statement suggests he turned to steroids to help him recover more quickly.
It will be interesting to gauge the reaction around baseball. It surely won’t be a reaction of surprise, and probably won’t be one of outrage either. As we’ve seen in the past — when we agree to talk about the past — admission seems to be the best way to (sort of) clear one’s name in this era of performance enhancing drugs.
Andy Pettitte admitted it, and he was hardly vilified. Alex Rodriguez admitted it, and the story went away fairly quickly. Jason Giambi didn’t quite admit it, but we all understood what he was saying, and he was back to being a fun-loving baseball player. As more and more names come to light, the perception of steroids and steroid users seems to change. Not for everyone, but for a lot of people. McGwire is now in that group that’s asking forgiveness instead of denying the truth.
UPDATE, 4:20 p.m.: Hey guys, Sam here. Just wanted to post the statement that MLB just sent out from Bud Selig on the McGwire admission. Here it is:
“I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct his investigation. This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark’s reentry into the game much smoother and easier.
“While we, along with all sports organizations, continue to battle the use of such drugs and continue the intensive search for a valid test for HGH, I believe our drug testing program is the toughest and most effective in professional sports. Last year in the Major Leagues, we had only two positives for steroids out of 3,722 tests. We have banned and aggressively test for amphetamines, substances which club doctors and professional athletic trainers have told me had presented serious problems for the sport for decades. Our minor league program will begin its 10th year in 2010. We conducted 8,995 tests in the minor leagues last year of which less than eight-tenths of one percent was positive.
“The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually non-existent as our testing results have shown. The so-called “steroid era” – a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances – is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark’s admission today is another step in the right direction.”
UPDATE, 5:03 p.m.: Chad here, with rule No. 1 of covering baseball: If you decide to go to the grocery story, the commissioner will issue an official statement the moment you walk out the door. This is not negotiable.
UPDATE, 5:38 p.m.: McGwire is going to be interviewed by Bob Costas on MLB Network tonight at 7 ET. Might be worth watching.