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Hey, Mac, Do What Comes Naturally

March 01, 1999
March 01, 1999

Table of Contents
March 1, 1999

Faces In The Crowd
Inside Boxing

Hey, Mac, Do What Comes Naturally

This season, wouldn't it be cool if Mark McGwire crushed a
hundred? Better yet, five hundred? A thousand?

This is an article from the March 1, 1999 issue

Wouldn't it be perfect if today, right now, before the season is
even crawling, he reached into his locker, took out his bottle
of androstenedione, opened the childproof cap, dumped all the
pills on the floor of the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse in
Jupiter, Fla., and crushed every one of them under his cleats?

You talk about heroic. That would be heroic.

I don't think a single dinger McGwire hit last year can be
directly traced to andro, the testosterone-producing supplement
that he takes before workouts and is banned by the IOC, the NFL
and the NCAA. I think it was a raptor's eye, a killer's swing
and an XXL heart, not andro, that produced all those homers. But
a lot of other people disagree. In fact a lot of kids do. A lot
of teenage boys who are getting ready for the high school
baseball season are at their nearby vitamin and supplement store
right now pooling their snow-shoveling money to buy it.

Some doctors think taking andro is a very dangerous thing. Some
doctors think it's a dangerous thing for grown men, much less
teenage boys. Anytime you're putting 10 times the normal amount
of anything in your body, it doesn't take Marcus Welby to know
you're asking for trouble. Right now, Mark McGwire might be
America's No. 1 sports hero and its No. 1 health hazard.

Just the normal amount of testosterone has gotten more teenage
boys into trouble than fake I.D.'s. Imagine if they all start
taking a pill that increases their testosterone level. We know
that excess testosterone may eventually stunt growth, slow
puberty, lead to sterility and cause liver disease, heart
problems, acne, fits of rage, baldness and the development of
breasts in men. Is that the effect McGwire wants on American
youth baseball? That every kid wear a jock and a C cup?

McGwire once told me, "If they want to put a warning on andro,
like cigarettes, then I'm all for it." But a warning label means
zilch to a teenage first baseman trying to become the next Big
Mac. There are warning labels on the bottoms of skateboards too.

Quitting isn't admitting he was nuked up last year. It doesn't
put an asterisk on the 70. It doesn't mean he cheated. He
didn't. What he did was 100% legal and within the rules of
baseball. But now with Michael Jordan gone, McGwire becomes the
king sports role model in the country. Legal he left behind a
long time ago. Now he's stuck with right.

It's funny about McGwire. He's a wonderful, compassionate man.
He's one of the great divorced dads in America. He hardly
touches alcohol. He won't smoke. He champions abused kids.

So why does he let so many kids harm themselves just to be like
Mac? In the early '90s a study found that 6.6% of male high
school seniors had tried an illegal steroid. After a summer when
McGwire owned highlight shows, how many kids will now be on what
is essentially a legal steroid?

McGwire ought not wait for the upcoming report from two Harvard
researchers to Major League Baseball on andro's effects on the
body. He ought to quit now. The AMA would throw him a parade. As
the father of a 14-year-old boy, so would I.

I believe McGwire when he says he takes andro only to help him
work out harder and recover from injury faster. I believe him
when he snips that if andro helps you hit 70 home runs, why isn't
everybody down at Gold's Gym hitting 70? Fine. So stop just for
us curious. Hit home runs that land in row 213 instead of 215.
Bench one farm animal less. Mac has always said andro doesn't
make a difference. So show us.

McGwire's not going to hit 70 home runs this year. I don't care
if he's mainlining Valvoline, he's not going to hit 70. It's like
catching back-to-back syzygies or someone's carving another Mount
Rushmore.

But McGwire could hit 50, and that would give him an astounding
four straight seasons with 50 or more. How cool would it be to
say he hit 50 with andro and 50 without? How cool would it be to
show the world he really wasn't Mark McGwired? If he did that,
they might just have to start another Rushmore.

What McGwire did last season was the single greatest athletic
achievement in American history. He doesn't have anything to
prove to me. But his son, Matt, will be a teenager soon. Doesn't
Mark have something to prove to him?

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
I don't think a single dinger McGwire hit last year can be
directly traced to andro, but a lot of other people do.