Record-breaking McGwire admits steroid use
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former St Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire has admitted using steroids when he was a player, including in 1998 when he broke the single-season home-run record, but denied they improved his performance.
"I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize," the 46-year-old said in a statement on Monday that was applauded by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
McGwire belted 70 home runs for St Louis in 1998 to shatter the record of 61 set by Roger Maris for the New York Yankees in 1961. The record was subsequently broken when Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants registered 73 homers in 2001.
"It's the most regrettable thing I've ever done in my life," McGwire added in a tearful TV interview. "I apologize to everybody in Major League Baseball, my family, the Marises, Bud Selig. Today was the hardest day of my life."
McGwire, who last played in 2001 and was hired in October as hitting coach for the Cardinals, said he wanted to set the record straight before beginning his new role with the team.
"It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected," he said in the statement.
McGwire told MLB Network he took steroids only to overcome health issues.
"I told my dad yesterday when I finally had to tell him about this. I remember calling him in '96," he said, pausing as tears welled up in his eyes.
"I was so frustrated with injuries I wanted to retire. He's the one that told me to stick it out. I was using steroids to heal faster, help my body to feel normal.
"I did not take steroids for any gains or strength purposes."
McGwire said he experimented briefly with steroids in the 1989-90 off-season and began taking them regularly in 1993 and used them in low dosages throughout the 1990s, including during his record-setting 1998 season, "just to feel normal."
McGwire started his career with the Oakland Athletics, playing briefly in 1986 before his 49 homers the following year led the American League and set a rookie record. The 12-times All-Star was traded to St Louis during the 1997 season.
Selig welcomed the admission from McGwire, who is eighth on the all-time home-run list with 583..
"I am pleased Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player," the MLB commissioner said in a statement.
"Being truthful is always the correct course of action. This statement of contrition I believe will make Mark's re-entry to the game much smoother and easier."
Selig's statement, however, came before McGwire's insistence that he believed he could have achieved the same heights without doping.
McGwire was asked about his appearance at a 2005 U.S. government hearing into use of steroids in baseball, where he declined to disclose whether he had used drugs.
"I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject," he said repeatedly.
McGwire said he had gone to Washington prepared to tell the truth but was advised against it by his lawyers after a request for immunity was turned down.
In 2007 the Mitchell Report on use of performance enhancers in baseball mentioned McGwire among 89 players tied to doping.
Although there was no drug testing in baseball during his career, suspicion of doping has tarnished McGwire's image and led to a backlash in Hall of Fame voting.
McGwire, in his fourth year of eligibility, last week received only 23.7 percent of the vote by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, well shy of the 75 percent needed for admission.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)