Finally.

Mark McGwire admitted what almost everybody believed, he used steroids during his major league playing career.

The slugger released a statement Monday and then conducted a nearly hour-long interview on Major League Baseball Network discussing his usage.

In an emotional interview, McGwire said he regretted using and wished he had never lived in a time when steroids and performance enhancing drugs were used as regularly as pine tar for many ballplayers.

What he did not admit is that his usage led to his increased production at the plate. He was adamant that his numbers were his, earned honestly.

But the fact is he went from home run hitter to Paul Bunyan with a bat, hitting homers at a rate never seen before by him or anyone else in the history of the game.

But I am not going to dismiss his admission because it was not a complete mea culpa.

Yes, there is a correlation between McGwire's increased production and the timeline when he said he used steroids. He counters this by saying he was a born and bred home run hitter, who enhanced his God-given ability through hard work. I think more people would be accepting if McGwire had said, yes, steroids made me a more powerful, productive hitter.

The problem is he does not believe that.

My sense, from listening and watching his interview, is that McGwire truly believes his stats were produced by his ability and drive. In his mind, he earned those numbers.

It is hard to tell a man what he can and cannot believe, especially if his beliefs help him sleep at night. If McGwire believes his numbers are authentic, no one will be able to tell him otherwise.

We can only choose to believe him or not.

I have been a McGwire fan since he first donned the green and gold of my Oakland A's, and, for me, he set himself apart from other players that season when he passed up the chance at 50 homers in a season to go home on the last day of the season for the birth of his first son.

That being said, he is a man, and he made a mistake that has cost him his reputation as a ball player.

If you only measure him as a baseball player, then he is probably nothing to you. If you think of athletes as human beings who happen to excel in sports, then there is more to McGwire than the numbers on the back of his baseball cards.

I believe him that the hardest part of all this was telling his father, his son and the rest of his family and friends that he cheated. He called the widow of Roger Maris, the man whose single-season home run record he broke.

That is not an act of a coward. That is a man trying to do what he can to right his wrongs.

I know McGwire had to do this and he had to do it now, before he takes the field as the hitting coach for St. Louis. I know there are many reasons in his favor for coming forward, but I am not cynical enough to think his motives were purely selfish.

It also is obvious this is not an easy process for him, and the regrets are sincere. His legacy in baseball is forever tarnished, but maybe he can do some good now.

I expect McGwire to become the poster child for not doing steroids. That could be his legacy, and if he can set people straight on the hazards, that would be a hall of fame effort.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.