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7 Reasons That The Mark McGwire Steroid Admission Is Shameful

Posted on January 13, 2010 in Posts | 4 comments

1.  Timing. Five years ago, when he told a Congressional committee that he “hadn’t come to talk about the past”, before refusing to discuss his own drug use, Mark McGwire had nothing to gain by discussing it.  Now though, with accusations and witness testimonies about his drug use mounting – his own brother’s even – Mark McGwire does have something to gain from admitting his drug use.  The Cardinals couldn’t employ a batting coach who was still lying about his drug use – that would taint their current playing squad with suspicion.  It is only by finally admitting his deception that McGwire can hope to remain in  employment.  His admission is not contrition, it is not an attempt to seek redemption, it is both cynical and self serving.

2.  Mistake.  Mark McGwire stated in his interview with Bob Costas that his persistent steroid use was a “mistake”.  That’s really the wrong word to use.  Pressing the wrong button on your computer and sending an email before you’ve finished writing it is a mistake.  Forgetting to thank your host at a dinner party is a mistake.  Persistent use of illegal performance enhancing drugs over the course of several years to gain sporting and pecuniary advantage is not a mistake.  A better word to describe his use of steroids would be “cheating”, or “abomination”, “deception”, “fraud”, “charlatanism”, “bilking”, “duplicitous”, “shameful”, “treacherous”, “crooked”, “dishonest”, “swindling”…  I could go on.  Seriously, I could come up with hundreds of words to describe his conduct, all of them more appropriate than “mistake”.  I could do it without recourse to performance enhancing drugs too.  I could probably manage it on nothing more powerful than a couple of cups of coffee.

3.  Dismissive.  McGwire also attempts to downplay his steroid use.  He replied “Absolutely” when asked if he could have hit over 70 runs in a season without them.  Really?  Why go to the trouble of taking them then?  Why risk being unmasked as a cheat by the authorities?  Why endanger your health by taking them?  Of course Mark McGwire couldn’t have hit 70 home runs in a season without them.  If he could have, he wouldn’t have resorted to using them.

McGwire is trying to tell us is that his drug use had no effect on his ability to hit the ball.  This is laughable when consider the extra strength and power that its users of human growth hormone are  able to generate.

Let’s put that to one side though, McGwire states that he took illegal drugs to get him through injuries, which means that without them, his ability to get through the scrapes and knocks of professional baseball would have been diminished.  Can you hit 70 home runs in a season when you spend a reasonable amount of it on the DL?  Of course you can’t.  Mark McGwire gained a large advantage as a result of the use of steroids, and if his admission had been made for the right reasons, he would have been honest enough to admit it.  He cheated then, and he’s lying now.

4. Hall of Fame. One of the possible reasons McGwire won’t admit that taking performance-enhancing-drugs enhanced his performance is the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Perhaps he still harbours some ambition to be elected into it.  If he admitted that his cheating affected his home run statistics he would surely diminish his chances even further, as he certainly doesn’t deserve to be there as a result of his fielding performances, his base-running or his batting average, which were nothing special.   His only hope is that his home run achievements will get him elected .  Mark McGwire is a cheat and it would be a disgrace if he were elected to the Hall of Fame.  He should be only be accepted into the Baseball Hall of Fame if Milli Vanilli are elected into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Joseph Stalin is canonised and Heather Mills is given a Knighthood.

5.  Money.  The astonishing thing is that McGwire stands to gain financially from admitting his drug use – however grudging and duplicitous his admissions have been.  Here is a man who cheated at his sport and made hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, bonuses and endorsements as a result of that.  He stands to keep his job with the Cardinals as a result of his admission, he’ll probably write a tell-all book – with all of the publishing advances and serialisation fees that come with that – and he’ll probably turn up crying on Oprah.  What he definitely won’t be doing is paying back the money he gained by cheating.  What of his opponents who didn’t take drugs and were out-performed by McGwire and his team?  Will McGwire reimburse them for their lost win-bonuses?  Will he reimburse companies he endorsed, whose reputation now stands to be tainted as a result of his admission?  Will he reimburse the baseball fans who went to see a fair contest – this is a sport, remember – and didn’t see one?  Of course he won’t.  It is as likely as Simon Cowell saying something nice or doing something worthy.

6. Reaction.  It’s not just McGwire’s conduct that has been shameful.  Most of the reaction I’ve read and heard has been right-minded and fair.  This is understandable, McGwire’s steroid use doesn’t come as a surprise in a sport that’s been so tainted by drug abuse, but it would be nice if comment on it were a little less calm and rational.  It may be something that we’ve all come to expect but that doesn’t mean that we should accept it so readily.  The most outraged commentator I have read about this is me.  I’m furious!  I don’t understand how a man can cynically admit to defrauding the sporting public and sully the reputation of the wonderful game of baseball and generate so little vitriol from commentators.  If a similar situation had occurred in English football, the media would be leading mobs with torches and pitchforks to his door and nobody would condemn them for it.  As for the reaction of Bobby Knight, I can only assume that he is Gatorade-addled.  Bobby Knight; you sir, are an idiot.

7.  * Once again, this admission brings back the spectre of statistics.  When Benjamin Disraeli spoke of  “Lies, damned lies and statistics”,  he couldn’t have even begun to imagine the mess that baseball statistics are in.  What do you do with McGwire’s records?  They were obtained illegally, by cheating.  What do you say to an honest player who scores 69 home runs in a season?  That they’re the third best of all time?  Statistically that’s what this honest player would be – that’s what the records would show – but we all know that McGwire scored 70 home runs in a season by cheating.  Is it even enough to put an asterisk next to his scores?  I believe they should be removed from the record book altogether.  If his scores remain, McGwire wasn’t just cheating baseball then, he’s cheating baseball now.  What incentive is there for honest athletes to give their all in a sport where cheats continue to prosper in its recorded history?

I would like to apologise to regular 7 Reasons readers.  We are supposed to be a humour-based website and I feel I haven’t been very funny here, but I find it very hard find any humour in this sordid and repugnant affair.  I love baseball and I feel cheated.

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  1. Fine piece Marc. If McGwire was so convinced that the PEDs only helped with his rehabilitation from injury and not boosted his ability to send the ball into the bleachers, I don’t know why he didn’t say it years ago. Given the timing you can only view his admission with cynicism. And it seems totally wrong that now he has ‘gotten this off his chest’ it is no longer his problem. Instead it’s the problem of the sport. That has to be wrong. I am surprised by the relaxed reaction in the US to this. I can only assume it is because his admission is just confirmation of what people have been thinking for years.

  2. This is a humour-based website and I have often enjoyed some great humour in it by both of you. However I think this is the best piece of writing I have read here so far. It’s passionate and it’s fair and generates so much more discussion to it. I am tempted to use this in one of my classes with 17 year old athletes at school. Nice work Marc.

  3. Thanks Jon, I find the reaction in the U.S. disappointing. We were all aware that steroid use was widespread in that era but I would have thought that the astonishing cynicism of McGwire should surely have provoked more adverse reaction over there.

    Thanks Aspa, just don’t use Mark McGwire as an example.
    .-= Marc´s last blog ..Brilliant Christmas Present. =-.

  4. Maybe commentators and writers were also on steroids?

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