"I did it! I took 'em!

"Steroids. Human growth hormones. I took them orally. I shot them in my butt. For more than 10 years I thrived on them. They were like a magic potion.

"Why did I take them? Easy. I wanted to hit more home runs and hit them farther than any player who ever lived. Fans love the home run, and I wanted to be the guy who provided fans with more homers than anyone else. Homers meant dollars. The more I hit the added millions I would make.

"Was I worried that they would hurt me healthwise down the road? Heck no. I was in my 20s and early 30s, I was young and I was invincible.

"Didn't I care that by taking these banned substances that I was cheating, that I was compromising the integrity of baseball?

"Get with it. I took them for one reason. I wanted an edge over other players. Hey, I wasn't alone in this steroid deal. There were pitchers I was facing every day who were juicing. There were plenty of other hitters who were cheating also. I had to take them to stay competitive. Would I take them if I had to do it all over again? You bet I would. It was a survival thing.

"Didn't I feel guilty about what kind of a message I was sending out to young kids who idolized my talents? Heck no, you have to do what you have to do."

No, those weren't the words that Mark McGwire spoke earlier this week when he admitted to more than 10 years of taking steroids while he was a star player for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. But they are the words he should have used, if he wanted to be honest that is.

Yes, he finally admitted, after five years of denial and an embarrassing appearance before a Senate committee, that he took steroids. But in his tear-filled admission he said he took them not to get stronger, and not to hit home runs more often and farther. He wanted us to believe he took them to repair his body so he could stay in the lineup. He insisted he didn't need steroids to break home run records that stood for decades before the so-called steroid era of baseball. His accomplishments were all the result of his natural talent, he told us. That's what helped him send baseballs into orbit. Banned substances had nothing to do with it.

If that's the case. Then why did McGwire reach out to the late Roger Maris' family, after having obliterated Maris' home run record set back nearly 50 years ago, in a more honest era. If McGwire set his marks on pure talent alone, then there was no reason to apologize to anyone. You don't have to apologize for being good at something. You only need to apologize when you're caught cheating.

Mark McGwire came out and finally admitted to taking steroids for one reason. He came clean (okay, a little bit clean) because he's gotten another job, another chance in baseball as the hitting instructor for his former team, the Cardinals. For him to stay in denial would have been a major distraction as Spring Training season gets closer and closer.

Will the semi-admission help his chances of getting inducted into the Hall of Fame some day? We hope not. McGwire and the others who cheated during the steroid era caused enough damage to the game and its reputation. His enshrinement into the Hall would only add insult to injury.

McGwire and his cohorts left a lot of victims in their wake. First there are the players who didn't cheat, then or now, because their statistics won't match up to those of the juicers. Then there are the fans, the people who follow the game and cherish the records set by the players they admired for decades. Those records are forever tainted.

Mark McGwire finally came out of the closet concerning his steroid use this week. But he didn't come out nearly far enough. And for that he doesn't deserve any praise or any sympathy, no matter how many tears he sheds.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com [1]