Mark McGwire finally admitted Monday what everyone has long believed. That, yes, he took steroids.
But the onetime single-season home run king insisted that his use of performance-enhancing drugs during the 1990s did not enhance his performance. It helped only his health, he said.
But he repeatedly refused to acknowledge even the possibility that he could have received any benefit from the drugs other than keeping him on the field. He said he believes his accomplishments, including his record-breaking 70 home runs in 1998, are legitimate.
"There is not a foreign injection that is going to give me the hand-eye, or give any athlete the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball," he said. "No pill or injection will hit a baseball."
It was an emotional end to a day McGwire said he knew was coming for some time, one he clearly couldn't wait to put in the past.
"All I've wanted to do is come clean," said McGwire, who revealed his steroid use in a statement delivered to The Associated Press during the afternoon. "I've been wanting to come clean since 2005. I didn't know where, when or how. I've just been holding this in."
The reason he admitted his steroid use, he said, is to minimize distractions come spring training, when he returns to the Cardinals as hitting coach. It will be his first job in baseball since he retired after the 2001 season.
McGwire said he first tried steroids during the offseason before the 1990 season, but only for a few weeks. He said he began using the drugs on a consistent basis before the 1994 season.
"The names I don't remember," he said, referring to the type of steroids. "But I did injectable. I preferred the orals. The steroids I did were on a very, very low dosage. I didn't want to take a lot of it. I didn't want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno."
He said he never discussed steroids with anyone in baseball, including teammates. He said Jose Canseco's description of injecting McGwire in bathroom stalls in the clubhouse before games was false. "Absolutely no truth to that whatsoever," he said.
McGwire said he even kept his steroid use a secret from family members and friends, choking up as he said he called his parents and son on Sunday and finally told them his secret.
He said he also called Roger Maris' widow, Pat, Monday.
"I felt I needed to do that," he said. "They've been great supporters of mine. She was disappointed and she has every right to be. I couldn't tell her how so sorry I was."
McGwire said he wanted to reveal his steroid use before Congress in 2005, even though just a few weeks before that hearing, he categorically denied it on "60 Minutes" in response to Canseco's book.
But without immunity, his lawyers told him he likely would face prosecution. That's why he refused to talk about the past.
"I wanted to tell the truth, but because of the position I was in, to protect myself, to protect my family, I decided to take the hit," he said. "I think anybody is going to take the hits. I've been taking hits for five years. It doesn't feel good."
The fallout from that experience on Capitol Hill also is a major part of his motivation for returning to baseball, although he's essentially been in hiding ever since that day.
"The last visual that people have of me is standing up with my right hand up in Congress," he said. "So now my children can see me in uniform again."
TEXT OF 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 ’90s, 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 ribcage 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.”