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Vindication for Wilstein, who reported on McGwire's andro bottle

A relaxing day in Miami for a former Associated Press reporter took a wild turn Monday afternoon when Mark McGwire finally admitted his steroid use.

For Steve Wilstein, it provided a flashback to 1998.

During McGwire's chase of Roger Maris' home run record, Wilstein, now retired, sent shock waves through the sports world by reporting on the bottle of androstenedione he had noticed in McGwire's locker.

Although andro was a legal over-the-counter supplement that was not banned by Major League Baseball at the time, its use was prohibited in the Olympics, the NFL and the NCAA.

That was the first story that raised the notion that perhaps McGwire's Bunyon-esqe muscles and staggering home run totals were not obtained naturally.

"I always thought the andro was the tip of it, but it was the only thing I could prove," Wilstein said Monday before interviews with CNN and NBC. "I always suspected he was doing much more than andro. That was just a small drug that couldn't have built him up the way these other steroids had."

Although the story did not accuse McGwire of using performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, it resulted in misplaced anger and finger-pointing at Wilstein from all angles. One major newspaper ran a story with the headline, "Focus should be on the field, not the medicine cabinets." Some accused Wilstein of snooping. But in retrospect, he clearly was ahead of everyone else.

"I spoiled the illusion for a lot of people," he said. "People wanted to believe in the illusion of this great home run chase that was phony. And I came along and was puncturing that bond of illusion.

"Sure I received a lot of negative comments both from other baseball writers and the public and ordinary commentators. Everybody wanted to buy back into baseball. It had been suffering for quite some time."

Wilstein said he was excited about being assigned to cover the home run chase between McGwire and Sammy Sosa and the pursuit of Maris' record, which rejuvenated fans after the 1994 strike.

"We all wanted to live the fantasy of that summer," he said. "It was disappointing to realize it was an illusion. I would have loved to have this all been on the up-and-up. I really love baseball, and it pained me a little bit to have this come out this way.

"But you also have a responsibility as a reporter; everybody in this business knows you just don't ignore the truth."

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