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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mark of shame

Former St.Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire admitted today that he used steroids for 10 years - including 1998, the year he broke the record for most home runs hit in a single season.

No surprise there.

What is surprising, though, is the number of people already rushing to Big Mac's defense.

ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kirkjian said this afternoon that he still supports McGwire's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (and yes, Kirkjian has a vote) because so many Major Leaguers, including some of the best players in the so-called "Steroid Era," have used performance-enhancing drugs. Great message for the kids, Tim: If other people cheat, it's OK for you to do it, too. Yikes. Thankfully, most other Hall of Fame voters don't see it that way.

And then there's college basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight, a longtime friend of McGwire's, who told ESPN during the same broadcast today that criticisms of McGwire are unfair because, after all, even Gatorade - which restores electrolytes the body loses during athletic activity - is a performance-enhancing drug. Just one problem, Bobby: Gatorade hasn't been banned by Major League Baseball. Steroids have.

Finally, there's Tony LaRussa, McGwire's manager on the Cardinals and still the team's skipper today. "I’ve defended Mark because I observed him develop his unique power-hitting skill through a rigorous physical and fundamental workout program," LaRussa said. Well, yeah, those things and USING STEROIDS!

But then, LaRussa really has no choice but to defend McGwire, seeing as how the now-admitted cheater just came on board as the Cards' hitting coach.

Here's hoping McGwire teaches young hitters to play the game honestly, though I'm not sure he understands the concept.



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