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La Russa surprised by testimony

JUPITER, Fla. -- St. Louis manager Tony La Russa was surprised by Mark McGwire's repeated refusals to deny using steroids during testimony before a congressional committee.

McGwire has denied using illegal performance-enhancing drugs but refused to do so under oath Thursday, citing advice from his lawyer.

"In my opinion, being under oath wouldn't have changed what he said," La Russa said yesterday. "I think he was overcoached. Mostly, I think it was a missed opportunity to explain that if you use substances like creatine and over-the-counter stuff that's not illegal, you can get the benefits of a hard-core weight training program. And that was never discussed. You can get bigger and stronger doing this legally, and I didn't hear that."

La Russa managed McGwire on both the Oakland Athletics and the Cardinals. La Russa says he believes McGwire's denials.

"He's made a statement where he's denied it, and I thought it was a great time to make that same statement," La Russa said. "I think he was kind of coached into saying this one thing, `I'm here about the future, not about the past.' I was surprised he didn't repeat what he said earlier. I think it would have helped his cause."

La Russa admits that he's biased toward McGwire because of their friendship.

"It's impossible to separate myself from what I know of how hard he worked and how he developed," La Russa said. "Could I have an opinion if I was just a fan? Yeah, he looked uncomfortable. But then, I saw him uncomfortable in 1998 when people asked him questions and he was just shy and wanted to hide from them."

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