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Mark McGwire admits steroid use

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former St Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire has admitted using steroids when he was a player, including 1998 when he broke the single-season home-run record.

"I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize," the 46-year-old said in a statement on Monday.

McGwire belted 70 home runs for St Louis in 1998 to shatter the record of 61 hit by Roger Maris for the New York Yankees in 1961.

The record was then broken again when Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants registered 73 homers in 2001.

McGwire last played in 2001 and was hired in October as hitting coach for the Cardinals. He said he wanted to set the record straight before beginning his new role with the team.

"It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected," he said.

"I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989-90 off-season and then after I was injured in 1993 I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the 90s including during the 1998 season.

"I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back I wish I had never played during the steroid era," added McGwire who started his career with the Oakland Athletics.

He joined the A's in 1986 and his 49 homers the following year led the American League and set a rookie record. The 12-times All-Star was traded to St Louis during the 1997 season.

McGwire is eighth on the all-time home-run list with 583.

SELIG PLEASED

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig welcomed the former slugger's admission.

"I am pleased Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player," Selig said in a statement. "Being truthful is always the correct course of action.

"This statement of contrition I believe will make Mark's re-entry to the game much smoother and easier."

Selig said drug testing and tough sanctions for doping had helped to clean up the sport and "Mark's admission today is another step in the right direction."

McGwire declined to mention whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs during testimony in March 2005 before a U.S. government committee exploring the use of steroids in baseball.

"I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject," he said.

In 2007 the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball mentioned McGwire among 89 players linked to doping.

Suspicion of doping and the former slugger's reluctance to discuss his involvement tarnished his image, with a backlash seen in Hall of Fame voting over the past four years.

McGwire, in his fourth year of eligibility, last week received only 23.7 percent of the vote by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, well shy of the 75 percent needed for admission to the Hall.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)