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Baseball’s issue more than a game

The Union editorial board

Watching former home run champion Mark McGwire fight back the tears, listen to his attorney’s whispers and then essentially take the Fifth at a Congressional hearing Thursday should send a terrific message to teenagers wanting to use anabolic steroids to boost their performance.

It’s embarrassing to get caught cheating and it will taint your accomplishments and public image.

Many have questioned why lawmakers who they believe should be more focused on national defense, the economy or fixing Social Security are injecting themselves into Major League Baseball’s business.

Come on, it’s only a game. Right?

But it’s become a life-and-death game for some young men.

Parents also testified at Thursday’s hearing, which took center stage in Washington and was the subject of extensive media coverage.

They talked about teenaged sons who took steroids in their bids to become sports stars and perhaps to look as big and strong as a McGwire. But instead of winning championships and adulation, they killed themselves.

The stories have a similar theme: Happy, all-American, overachieving athlete undergoes a radical personality change and then in an obvious state of disorientation takes his life. The common element, according to the parents, was the introduction of anabolic steroids into their child’s life.

Lawmakers have pledged to consider legislation to ban steroids from Major League Baseball.

But was there value to Thursday’s hearings or was it nothing more than a Washington circus designed to give some lawmakers national exposure?

Clearly, the hearing was worth it.

The sight of major league stars adamantly denying using steroids should show every young athlete there’s a tremendous downside to their use in addition to serious physical consequences. McGwire, the slugger who clouted 70 homers in 1998, looked like a broken and guilty man, his public image and accomplishments forever stained.

By pushing the issue out of the dugouts and into the spotlight, lawmakers did more in one day to get the message out about the negative consequences of steroids, which many consider a health hazard and a now image busters.

This is one time we should hope that are children were watching television.

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