Mark Gastineau's name comes up, and the mind starts scrolling through the

memories. The long hair and sack dances have slowly faded away, replaced by

images of the former Jets defensive star in handcuffs or before a judge,

involved in another embarrassing act of violence.

Gastineau, trying to end the missteps that have tarnished his career,

admitted through his publicist yesterday that he used anabolic steroids for his

entire NFL career. The 43-year-old former player blamed the muscle-building

drug for his violent outbursts away from the field, including several instances

of domestic violence.

"I blame no one but myself for using steroids over the years," said

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Gastineau, who checked into the Hope Christian Center in the Bronx on May 1.

"Steroids are very, very damaging drugs and cause lots of damage to your body,

both physically and mentally." Gastineau made the admission in a statement

released by his publicist, Mike Paul. The news release also said Gastineau has

become a born-again Christian, and that he has "turned to God to help me turn

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my life around." He is receiving treatment for anger management and addiction

to painkillers and diet pills and is being evaluated for possible alcohol

addiction, Paul said.

It was the first time Gastineau linked steroid use to his litany of violent

acts. Paul said Gastineau told him he started using the performance-enhancing

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drugs "as soon as he got to college and throughout his pro career." Gastineau

attended East Central Oklahoma and played for the Jets from 1979-88, leading

the league with an NFL-record 22 sacks in 1984.

"I just know every year he'd come back and I'd clock him in unbelievable

times," said Hofstra football coach Joe Gardi, who was the Jets' defensive

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coordinator for much of Gastineau's career. But Gardi said, "Coaches didn't

know the warning signs of steroid use back then . . . it wasn't an issue in

those days. We weren't as learned as we are today. It was something that wasn't

a big deal. I mean, you didn't know about it as a coach."

Gastineau was in court last week for a follow-up appearance after being

found guilty of harassing his former wife in June, 1999, one of several

domestic violence charges he's faced. A judge recently gave him the choice

between going to rehab or jail, Paul said.

"He's saying the guy who was doing those dances during those years is not

the Mark Gastineau you would meet today, and definitely not the Mark Gastineau

you'd meet when he's done with this program," Paul said. "That was 'Steroid

Mark.' When he comes out, you're going to meet 'Clean Mark.'"

Gastineau told Paul he hasn't taken steroids since his football career

ended, so it is unclear what role the drugs played in his violent history since

then. "The steroid use, he feels, led him to being addicted to what he's

addicted to now-painkillers as well as diet pills," Paul said.

"The painkillers were mainly for headaches that were excruciating headaches

he called migraines, just intense pain," Paul said. "The diet pills started

with playing and wanting to be quicker, faster. He was not only taking

steroids, but at the same time he was wanting to be thin and quick."

Gastineau's defense attorney, Richard Davis, said the former player "is now

totally committed to making positive change." Gastineau will not be available

for comment while at the rehab center, where he plans to live for one year. He

is due back in court June 14, and the center will update the court on his

progress.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Paul said. "It's going to take a long

time to get where wants to be."