Today's poll question: Do you like Mark McGwire again now that he's admitted his past steroid use?

Let's make this about you, not necessarily him. Not those lads in Congress. Not fellow injector Jose Canseco. Not manager Tony La Russa. Not commissioner Bud Selig.

We all marveled at McGwire, the slugger. We all got sick at McGwire, the I'm-not-here-to-talk-about-the-past testifier.

So now what? Do we hold a parade, immediately send him to the Hall of Fame and celebrate the truth setting him free? Um, no.

He is not free. His playing legacy remains tarnished. For how long? Forever? How tarnished? You make the call. You're not new to this steroid stuff.

You wanted to be entertained. You were. You wanted the truth. You got it. Finally.

But by him clearing his conscious, why does our view of him still feel cloudy? Because he's not alone in this. Other guys juiced, got rich and gained glory. Barry Bonds, you're up to bat next, big fella.

Are we supposed to only now feel guilty about enjoying McGwire's 1998 march to Roger Maris' home-run record, knowing officially that steroids indeed came along for the ride?

Should he be applauded for telling the truth here (via Monday's initial confessions to The Associated Press) and not lying before a Congressional hearing some five years ago?

What this does is set in motion a stuck-in-the-mud wheel. We must pause and decide whether to formulate a new opinion on McGwire.

The only startling part about him admitting past use of performance-enhancing drugs is that it took him so long to do so.

Alex Rodriguez did the same within the past year, recovered from his public perp walk and was in the middle of the dogpile when the New York Yankees' won the last World Series.

McGwire, by coming clean, is allowed to jump back in the middle of a sport he's devoted his life, which he put at physical and mental risk by using PEDs.

He will move on with his life as the St. Louis Cardinals' new hitting instructor. He should also moonlight as an educator about the danger of steroids? A-Rod hasn't done that (or if he has, he's done so quietly).

Maybe A-Rod deserves some sort of credit for daring to come clean. Maybe not, considering he did so after already having been exposed by others.

Here in the Bay Area, we review the timeline McGwire provided about his decade-long daliance with steroids. He put its launching (injecting?) point in the 1989/1990 offseason, meaning he started juicing after winning the 1989 World Series with the A's.

So that title is not tainted. At all? Period? Whatever. We don't know what to believe anymore. We've learned harsh lessons thanks to performance-enhancing drug use. So has McGwire.

Baseball took one more step out of its post-steroid-era life Monday. McGwire took one giant step forward in his life.

* * *

Here is McGwire's initial statement to The Associated Press:

"Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.

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 used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the '90s, including during the 1998 season.

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.

During the mid-'90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.

I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. 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.

Baseball is really different now - it's been cleaned up. The commissioner and the players' association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did.

I'm grateful to the Cardinals for bringing me back to baseball. I want to say thank you to Cardinals owner Mr. DeWitt, to my GM, John Mozeliak, and to my manager, Tony La Russa. I can't wait to put the uniform on again and to be back on the field in front of the great fans in Saint Louis. I've always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again, this time as hitting coach. I'm going to pour myself into this job and do everything I can to help the Cardinals hitters become the best players for years to come.

After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it. I'll do that, and then I just want to help my team."

* * *

Look for Cam Inman's Web-only "Candid Cam" takes whenever there's a breaking sports story, or whenever Cam's got something to say _ in short, just about every day. You can reach Cam at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com. You can follow him at twitter.com/CamInman.