When Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record back in 1998, it was electrifying. But now we know that when McGwire broke that record, he was cheating. He was using steroids.
He said he began using steroids in the late 1980s, on occasion in the 1990s, but definitely in 1998 when he broke the home run record by hitting 70 home runs in a single season, breaking the record of 61 previously held by Roger Maris.
That moment invigorated the national pastime, which was still recovering from the fallout of the 1994 baseball strike. The famed head-to-head race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who finished the season with 66 home runs, was followed by millions of baseball fans around the country.
There had been whispers about McGwire and his bulging muscles for years, but he dodged questions from reporters and even Congress back in 2005. McGwire refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing on steroid use, at that time saying, "I'm not here to talk about the past."
An emotional McGwire told The Associated Press that he worried that being honest that day would put him in legal jeopardy. McGwire said that by fessing up, "I'm throwing my whole family, closest friends, and other people that were with me. I'm putting them in something for an act that I did."
Today, in his statement, he said, "I want to come clean."
McGwire said he took steroids to get back on the field following a series of injuries in the early 90s. "I experienced a lot of injuries, including a rib cage 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."
The 46-year-old McGwire, who retired in 2001, has become the second star baseball player in less than a year to admit using illegal steroids. Last February, the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez admitted to using the drugs. But he is only one of dozens of players over the past two decades who has admitted to steroid use.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement today, saying that he is "pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player," and that McGwire's admission "will make Mark's re-entry into the game much smoother and easier."
But the truth might be too late for some fans and Hall of Fame voters who have turned their backs on McGwire.
Buster Olney, senior writer for "ESPN The Magazine" told ABC News, "I don't think this is going to change the way people feel about McGwire because I think within the baseball community, it was widely assumed he used performance-enhancing drugs."
So why talk now? McGwire disappeared from the public eye following his retirement as a player after the 2001 season. ESPN reports that when the Cardinals hired the 47-year-old as coach on Oct. 26, they said he would address questions before spring training, and Monday's statement broke his silence.