LONDON -- The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency says Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use should spur baseball to get tougher on drug cheats.
WADA president John Fahey said Tuesday that despite "incremental progress" baseball's drug program still falls short of the "universally accepted standards" of the international code on doping.
After years of denying he took performance-enhancing drugs, a tearful McGwire apologized Monday. He said he used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, starting before the 1990 season and including 1998 when he hit 70 homers to break Roger Maris' record.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig responded by saying the "so-called 'steroid era' ... is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark's admission today is another step in the right direction."
However, former WADA president Dick Pound criticized Selig and said he's skeptical of claims that baseball is becoming cleaner.
"I think the jury is still out on that issue and that the self-serving statements by Bud Selig do nothing to increase confidence," Pound said in an e-mail. "What has emerged in the whole baseball mess is that drug use is widespread and that even the best players are involved -- and still MLB is whistling past the graveyard.
"If you notice, McGwire talks about steroids and HGH. MLB does not even test for HGH [and many other doping substances]. These MLB positions are not indicators of a real attempt to solve the drug use problem in baseball," he said.
The reaction was muted in baseball-loving countries around the world, with little fuss made in the news in Japan, South Korea or Latin America.
Fahey and former international baseball federation president Harvey Schiller praised McGwire for stepping forward.
"I always believe that a public statement by someone who was involved with performance-enhancing drugs is a good thing as a reminder to young people about how serious the implications are for your future," Schiller told the AP by phone. "We have now people who admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs and realize that it's a tarnished career, and it's unfortunate when you have a great athlete who doesn't even need it."
Fahey tempered his remarks with criticism.
"Mark McGwire's admission demonstrates some courage from an athlete who cheated his opponents and the game of baseball for years," Fahey said. "But let's not forget he could have come forward and been truthful to all the kids for whom he was an idol much earlier. I would hope that he now sees his way to be a role model and clearly alert youth to the dangers of drug use and doping."
Schiller had been working to get baseball reinstated in the Olympics before stepping down last year. He said McGwire's acknowledgment won't hurt the sport's chances of getting back in the fold.
"I don't think it makes one difference one way or another," Schiller said. "If it was clearly dependent upon positive drug tests, there are many sports that are on the Olympic program that you could say, 'Why are they on the program?' But they continue because they have efforts to eliminate.
"Whether it's cycling or athletics or a bunch of others -- skiing -- that have had issues. All the sports are trying to do a better job," Schiller said.
Schiller said there is a "singular" reason why baseball is no longer an Olympic sport -- the top major leaguers are not there.
"It's the ability to put players on the field that the public wants to see," he said.
Baseball and softball were dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games. The International Olympic Committee rejected several attempts at reinstatement.
Schiller noted that baseball's international competitions comply with the WADA code. Fahey pointed out that Major League Baseball's program is still not up to date, and he questioned Selig's remark that doping in the game is now "virtually nonexistent."
It "ignores the obvious reality that until any anti-doping program is independent and appropriately publicly monitored, there cannot be confidence that the program is robust and of a standard similar to all other sports," Fahey said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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Mark McGwire admitted Jan. 11 that he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade, including during the 1998 season when he broke the then single-season home run record.
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