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Almost five years after clamming up in front of Congress, Mark McGwire is finally willing to talk about the past.

In a statement released to the AP on Monday afternoon, Big Mac admitted that he took steroids on and off for almost a decade and was a PED user when he hit 70 home runs during the famous 1998 home run chase.

The AP also reports that McGwire used human growth hormone, though that news was obtained from a source and was not referenced in McGwire's statement.

McGwire is scheduled for a live, in-depth interview with Bob Costas tonight on MLB Network at 7 ET. For now, here are some excerpts from his statement:

• "I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."

• "I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected."

• "I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids," McGwire said. "I had good years when I didn't take any, and I had bad years when I didn't take any. I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn't have done it and for that I'm truly sorry."

We'll have more on this later — this revelation will no doubt launch dozens of new baseball discussions — but I will say that my initial impression is that we should have seen this mea culpa coming. With McGwire poised to become the Cardinals hitting coach (and a possible pinch hitter) in 2010, it was in his best interest to get out ahead of the spring training questions and finally come clean on all the talk and rumors that have plagued him since retiring.

I'm sure plenty will hammer McGwire for avoiding the talk all these years and some of it will probably be deserved. At the same time, I think that a confession from one of the players who benefited the most from the steroid era is a big step in the right direction and should be welcomed, no matter the terms that happened to bring it about.

For McGwire's full statement, click here. For reactions from members of the Cardinals, including manager Tony La Russa, click here.

UPDATE: Here are some questions we'd like Costas to ask McGwire tonight. 

What do you think of Big Mac's decision to confess?

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