St. Louis – Former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire has admitted using steroids during his record-breaking season in 1998.
In a statement Monday, McGwire admitted to using performance enhancing drugs on and off for a decade, something he called "foolish" and a "mistake."
The news did not surprise The Sporting News' baseball columnist Stan McNeal,who had long suspected McGwire was doping. Most fans did as well, he said, and they are likely to forgive the former Cardinals star.
"America's a country where we like to forgive people," he said. "We just want them to kind of admit they made their mistakes."
McNeal said the Cardinals forced McGwire's hand by hiring him as their hitting coach in October.
"No one has just come forward without some agenda and said I made a mistake and what I did was wrong. It was always been what someone had reported on them, or in Mark's case, he's taken a new job."
Monday's announcement does not, for McNeal, diminish McGwire's accomplishments in 1998, when he dueled with Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs for the home run title in a chase that many say revived baseball.
John Rawlings, The Sporting News' former editor, disagreed. And, he said, McGwire would have been better off answering questions much earlier.
"I think his image overall, not only because he didn't admit it, but the very, very painful performance that he gave in front of Congress left a lot of people with a little bit of a nagging bad feeling about Mark," Rawlings said.
The home run record was broken again in 2001 by Barry Bonds, who is under federal investigation for lying about his alleged steroid use. But, Rawlings said, the numbers have to stand.
"You can't in any way quantify what Barry Bonds would have done, or what Mark McGwire would have done," he said. You can't quantify what they had done over the course of their careers. The numbers are there."
Here is the full text of Mark McGwire's statement:
"Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.
"I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the nineties, including during the 1998 season.
"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.
"During the mid-90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a rib cage 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.
"I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. 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.
"Baseball is really different now - it's been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did.
"I'm grateful to the Cardinals for bringing me back to baseball. I want to say thank you to Cardinals owner Mr. DeWitt, to my GM, John Mozeliak, and to my manager, Tony La Russa. I can't wait to put the uniform on again and to be back on the field in front of the great fans in Saint Louis. I've always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again, this time as hitting coach. I'm going to pour myself into this job and do everything I can to help the Cardinals hitters become the best players for years to come.
"After all this time, I want to come clean. 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."