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Former star first baseman Mark McGwire put together a highly productive 17-year career in the majors. During his heyday, McGwire was heralded as one of the game’s best home run hitters, vaunted by his 70-home run year in 1998 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, it all came tumbling down as he became linked to steroid use. This led to his eventual admission to using performance-enhancing drugs nearly a decade after he played his final MLB game. It was a long journey toward McGwire admitting to using an illegal substance. But it didn’t come without him trying to cover his tracks.

Mark McGwire’s MLB career

Mark McGwire stands on the St. Louis Cardinals field between pitches.
Mark McGwire during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals | Elsa Hasch /Allsport

McGwire burst onto the scene in his historic rookie campaign behind a then-record 49 home runs by a first-year player. And he stayed in the limelight as one of the bright talents in the league. McGwire was a key part of the Oakland Athletics through the late ’80s and into the early ’90s.

The bonafide star player celebrated multiple All-Star selections and a 1989 World Series win. During his six straight All-Star selections, he topped 30 home runs five times and more than 40 home runs twice. McGwire experienced a rough stretch with injuries but did hammer out a pair of 50-home run campaigns before the A’s traded him to the Cardinals in the 1997 season.

He spent the last five years of his career with St. Louis before retiring due to an injury after the 2001 campaign. In Oakland, he experienced two of the greatest single seasons in his first two years. This was highlighted by his 1998 home run battle with Sammy Sosa as he had a then-record 70 home runs and followed that with 65 the next season.

McGwire struggled with injuries in his final two years, competing in fewer than 100 games in each campaign before retiring at age 38.

Mark McGwire’s reason for taking steroids

The talk of steroid use has since clouded Mark McGwire’s career as he was outed by former longtime teammate Jose Canseco in his 2005 book, Juiced. McGwire was among the 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids the same year.

The 12-time All-Star denied discussing his career at any length. However, McGwire did come clean in 2010 as he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs only for health purposes, according to ESPN.

“During the mid-’90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years,” McGwire said. “I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage 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. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.”

McGwire did experience a tough stretch in his career where he missed more than 200 games over five years. He worked through many injuries, but that doesn’t excuse his decision to utilize steroids to get by.

McGwire’s legacy is forever tainted

Mark McGwire’s career has become forever linked to steroid use that has tainted his legacy.

That made it extremely difficult for him to get any footing in the voting for the Hall of Fame, as he never got any real traction. Other players associated with steroids, such as Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds, have yet to receive enough votes to earn an induction.

McGwire put forth a highly productive career, but his legacy has become one of the most notable asterisks in MLB history.