I was sitting in a waiting room yesterday, thumbing through web sites on my blackberry (tm) when I came across the headline "Mark McGwire admits steroid use." Not a shocker for anyone who doesn't live in a cave. Admitting he used, Mark McGwire said he didn't admit so at the time of the famous 2005 hearing (the same hearing where Palmeiro pointed his finger and said he never used steroids, only to test positive later)because he was declined immunity by Alberto Gonzales.
Now, I'm not in any way siding with McGwire on his very poor choice to use steroids and HGH while he was playing, including the year he broke Maris's homerun record. Despite his excuses that he was using them to recover from and prevent injury, and that "no needle or pill can give you the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball", McGwire artificially and dishonestly added power to his swing, all the while illegitimately breaking batting records and undoubtedly helping some careers and hurting others who played/coached against him.
However, if we take McGwire at his shaky word that he would've admitted use had he had immunity (or no risk of jail/fines to begin with), we can directly correlate the misguided War on Drugs and the worst AG in history's decision against immunity with keeping baseball from moving beyond the steroid era until yesterday.
Mark McGwire was the biggest name on the 2005 panel that testified before Congress, and it wasn't close. Sammy Sosa was there, but he feigned ignorance of English, he wasn't the first breaker of Maris's record, and (rightly or wrongly) the majority of American baseball fans did not relate to him as they did McGwire.
Since 2005, Barry Bonds re-broke the homerun records both for single-season AND total homeruns in a career. Raphael Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, which was a huge PR disaster for baseball. Roger Clemens took the "No I didn't use it!" route, another tremendous black eye for the game and a now fallen hero, a route that I would argue HE NEVER TAKES if McGwire had fallen on his sword in 2005 (especially with his former best friend Andy Petite readily admitting that he dabbled). Disaster for baseball history, for little-leaguers, for people like me in their mid-20's who were stuck to the TV with their dads and grandpas while ESPN cut away to show each McGwire and Sosa at-bat, and for baby-boomers who feel lonely in a sports bar if they paid a lot more attention to baseball than the NFL when they were younger.
All the above, I would argue, happened because of the STUPID drug laws and STUPID, STUPID Gonzales figuring out how to read THOSE laws, of all the ones he couldn't seem to grasp or remember.
My personal take on drug legalization is NOT "all or nothing", as some commentors will undoubtedly support. I feel that drugs like Heroin, Cocaine and Meth are super-addictive, destructive to the body, and often lead to very destructive behavior that affects many others besides the user. HGH/Steroids, however, are in the "marijuana" category; only overuse will lead to personal harm and, excepting the occasional JUDO CHOP! that an over-hyped steroid user might lay down on an undeserving annoyance to him, does not likely lead to a negative affect on others.
Change the laws. Reason over emotion, life over death, baseball over embarrasment.