Listen to/Watch entire show:
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
So now Mark McGwire has confessed. On one hand, his opening up seemed inevitable, hardly shocking news. We already knew he had used androstenedione, a steroid precursor with a molecular structure nearly identical to testosterone. We had already observed his bulky, typically steroidal physique. We had clearly read his body language when pleading the 5th Amendment during the 2005 Congressional hearings. We the public had already felt duped by being swept up in McGwire's then-thrilling home run derby of 1998. And baseball insiders had already expressed their judgment in turning McGwire away from the Hall of Fame each year he has been eligible.
The only new reveal to come from Mark McGwire's full confession this week is that he used steroids over the lion's share of his long career. It used to be looming sports myth that if the biggest stars were caught using performance drugs, then and only then would we know how widespread the epidemic was. Well, there was no bigger star in baseball in the 1990's than Mark McGwire. As for the decade just past, aren't our eyes now wide open, after learning the drug details of so many of the sport's superstars? Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Andy Pettitt, Eric Gagne. Isn't the story picture clear at this point?
We have even dubbed the twenty-year span of America' pastime, from 1985 to 2005, the "steroid era." We have made the sweeping assumption that many, many players during those twenty years were bulking up, experimenting with substances to help them gain in strength, recover more quickly from injuries, building their bodies through back-of-the-gym chemistry.
We have enough powerful evidence to imagine the completed baseball puzzle, but we still don't have anyone definitively detailing baseball's entire drug history. Well, we do have Jose Canseco. His book Juiced spilled many beans about many players. The trouble is the Canseco sleaze factor seriously undermines his credibility.
There was an NFL player, now dead due to heart complications from his many years of steroid abuse, who told the entire NFL tale. He was a Pittsburgh Steeler named Steve Courson and many of us on the steroid beat interviewed Steve to learn how deep steroids ran throughout the league. He recounted the specifics of his high school and college coaches, juicing him up starting at age 14. He told us how the San Diego Chargers of the 1960's would be required to take a little blue pill set out for each one of them on the daily breakfast table. That pill was Dianabol, a potent steroid. He named doctors and trainers and coaches and boosters who all wanted to be part of building bionic bodies who would win. It was through Steve Courson that we basically identified the "steroid era of football." And there has been an unspoken forgiveness for the players of that era, many of them now enshrined in their Hall of Fame.
That's what baseball needs. We the public need an education as to how drugs came into baseball's locker rooms, how ingrained drugs were in the baseball collective mentality. Reporters who cover the Dodgers say the minor leagues were into roids at a rate of about 90% during those twenty years. If the truth, the whole truth be told, we would vote McGwire into the Hall of Fame. Same with Barry Bonds. And Roger Clemens. We would look back and understand that this sport went through its experimental period, as have most. We wouldn't be sitting on high in judgment of a few, as if they created phantom careers. There's a bigger picture here. Mark McGwire is one of hundreds. Perhaps one of thousands. He actually played on a level playing field, a juiced field. I say he gets a pass.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.