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McKay not dogged by steroid ties to Canseco, McGwire

SLP98090817- 08 SEPTEMBER 1998- ST. LOUIS MISSOURI USA: St. Louis Cardinals'' Mark McGwire hops around first base but then has

SLP98090817- 08 SEPTEMBER 1998- ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, USA: St. Louis Cardinals'' Mark McGwire hops around first base, but then has to go back and touch it with the help of first base coach Dave McKay, after McGwire blasted his 62nd home run of the season, September 8. McGwire is now the single season home run leader. UPI bg/Scott Rovak

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Updated: May 2, 2012 8:25AM

MESA, Ariz. — Dave McKay is more than the Cubs’ new baserunning and outfield guru.

He’s also the guy who ran one of the major leagues’ first formal strength programs, doing so for Tony La Russa’s Oakland Athletics in the 1980s and early 1990s, with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire at its center.

And he was one of Mc-
Gwire’s biggest defenders as a coach with the St. Louis Cardinals before McGwire ultimately admitted — like Canseco before him — that he had used steroids.

Consequently, McKay can be found in the pages of the infamous 2007 Mitchell
Report, which details mountains of anecdotal evidence from the so-called Steroid Era.

But if his close association with two of the biggest names from the juicing age raised any eyebrows as McKay took on a prominent role with the Cubs’ coaching staff, it didn’t raise any issues with the Cubs’ brass.

The subject never came up during the brief hiring process, and McKay said he is open to talking publicly about it if anyone asks because — as he told the Mitchell investigators — he has nothing to hide.

Cubs president Theo
Epstein, by the way, also is in the Mitchell report, which details his emails questioning pitcher Eric Gagne’s steroid use before getting
affirmation and subsequently acquiring him for the Boston Red Sox.

‘‘I did the strength and conditioning with these guys, and you assume Jose [used steroids] because he’s [repeatedly] talking about it,’’ McKay said. ‘‘I never saw him use anything. And I never even remotely thought about anybody else using anything.’’

McKay said a history of cancer and heart disease in his family — he lost his father to prostate cancer — has made him especially health- and diet-conscious and fearful of harmful supplements such as steroids.

He carried that ideal into his strength program, he said, but he forced the issue with Canseco only as far as warning him about steroid use.

‘‘I looked at him, and I said: ‘You know what? You’d better be careful. You’d
better be careful,’ ’’ McKay said. ‘‘And I think that’s all I left him with.’’

One of the reasons McKay thought McGwire was steroid-free, he said, was that he saw the work McGwire put in compared to Canseco. He also didn’t think McGwire was ‘‘world-class big,’’ like classic steroid users.

‘‘The part that bothered me the most was I defended Mark,’’ he said. ‘‘He called me when he admitted that he used it, and he apologized
because I defended him. . . .

‘‘I’m looking like an idiot here defending him, and all of a sudden people find out he did, and now there’s a little bit more link to, ‘Maybe he knows something that [he hasn’t said],’ that type of thing.

‘‘I said to my wife: ‘From now on, I’m just going to watch myself.’ I’m not going to comment or go out of my way to defend [anyone] if you just don’t know.’’

McKay said he doesn’t think that has become part of his reputation in the game.

Regardless, he said: ‘‘You can’t lose sleep over what other people think. All you can do is what you think is the right thing and go from there.’’

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