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Baseball, Steroids, the latest

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
March 17, 2005

McGwire Says He Won't Name Names to Steroid Committee


n emotional Mark McGwire told a House committee today that he would "not participate in naming names" in discussing steroid use during his record-setting baseball career, nor would he say whether he had ever used steroids himself.

The committee, which spent the morning criticizing Major League Baseball for not doing enough to curb steroid use in its ranks, called on six stars and former stars of baseball to testify. Four of those players, all active, told the committee today that they had never taken steroids: Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Frank Thomas.

Jose Canseco, a former teammate of Mr. McGwire's on the Oakland A's, said that without a promise of immunity from prosecution, "I cannot be candid with this committee."

The hearings were partly prompted by Mr. Canseco's book, "Juiced," in which he wrote about his own steroid use and asserted that he had injected the drugs into Mr. McGwire. Mr. McGwire said he did not "intend to dignify Mr. Canseco's book" by discussing its specific charges.

Later, in answer to questions from committee members, Mr. McGwire said several times: "I'm not here to talk about the past."

Mr. McGwire went on to say that he would, however, help in efforts to discourage young people from using steroids.

"There has been a problem with steroids in baseball. It is a problem and that needs to be addressed," Mr. McGwire said. "What I will not do is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates."

Mr. McGwire's voice quavered at times in his appearance at the televised hearing on Capitol Hill. "I've always been a team player," Mr. McGwire said, pausing to maintain his composure. "I've never been a player who spread rumors or said things about teammates that could hurt them. I do not sit in judgment of other players."

Five of the players, dressed in business suits, sat at the same table, facing the panel. Mr. Thomas testified by video hookup from spring training.

Mr. McGwire and Mr. Schilling spoke derisively of Mr. Canseco, who was sitting a few feet from them, with Mr. Schilling referring to him as "that so-called author."

Mr. McGwire said that his lawyers had informed him that testifying to the committee could "jeopardize my friends, my family and myself." He added, "I intend to follow their advice."

Mr. McGwire broke the major league record for home runs in a season in 1998, hitting 70 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. That record has since been surpassed by Barry Bonds.

Mr. Palmeiro, who was also accused by Mr. Canseco in his book of taking steroids, denied using the performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have never used steroids. Period," Mr. Palmeiro said. "I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."

A nervous and humbled-looking Mr. Canseco told the committee that "I did know that my revelations would reverberate in the halls of this chamber."

Mr. Canseco, who retired in 2001 with 462 homers, asked for immunity so that he could testify fully, but that request was turned down on Wednesday. He said that he is already on probation from a Florida case unrelated to steroid use, and without immunity, "I fear that my testimony will affect my probation."

But later, in answer to some of the committee members' questions, Mr. Canseco said the use of steroids was well known in baseball.

"Steroids were a part of the game and no one wanted to take a stance on it," he said. "Hopefully this book I wrote educates people about how widespread use steroids is in major league sports, and that people say, look, you've got to stop this. The owners have to stop this. They have all got to stop this, period."

Several lawmakers pointed to a report by the Centers for Disease Control that said 500,000 American teens take steroids, partly in an effort emulate their sports heroes.

Representative Henry Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said baseball was not doing enough to curtail their use.

"We're long past the point where we can count on Major League Baseball to fix its own problems," he said.

The committee also heard from parents of two young athletes who committed suicide after using steroids for several years. One father called the players "cowards" for being "afraid to step on the field without the aid of performance-enhancing substances."

Representative Waxman said that if pro ball players were allowed to use steroids, it was no surprise that younger athletes wanted to use them too.

"There is an absolute correlation between the culture of steroids in high schools and the culture of steroids in major league clubhouses," he said. "Kids get the message when it appears that it's okay for professional athletes to use steroids. If the pros do it, college athletes will, too. And if it's an edge in college, high school students will want the edge, too.

"There is a pyramid of steroid use in society and today our investigation starts where it should - with the owners and players at the top of that pyramid," Mr. Waxman said.

As they spoke, the Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, who was to testify later, sat with his arms crossed and lips pursed.

Sitting near him was Donald Fehr, executive director of the players' union.

The hearing came a day after lawmakers chided Major League Baseball and the players' union, accusing them of misleading Congress and the public about the new steroids testing policy. The members of Congress were reacting angrily to the disclosure of the policy's details, which they contended were not as stringent or wide-ranging as baseball executives and union officials had said they were.

Mr. Davis and Mr. Waxman sent a 10-page letter to Mr. Selig and Mr. Fehr to express disappointment and frustration with the new policy.

Baseball instituted a steroids policy in 2002 and agreed last year to toughen it. The details of the new policy have not yet been finalized.

Another member of the committee, Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, said that "Baseball's policy needs to be one of zero tolerance and it needs to have teeth."

In his opening remarks, Mr. Davis said the players would have "an opportunity today to either clear their name or take public responsibility for their action, and perhaps offer cautionary tales to our youth."

The committee's hearings will come in four different panel sessions. In the first one, they heard from Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, a major league player for 17 years and a member of Hall of Fame.

"Baseball needs to know we are watching," he said. "They owe it to all of us to prove they are fixing this terrible problem. If not, we will have to do it for them."

Like many of the other committee members who spoke, Mr. Bunning spoke of his love of the game, and of the place baseball has in American history and culture. Mr. Bunning talked about how steroid use had tainted the game for many people, and had made them question the accomplishments of many great record-breaking players.

"What is happening in baseball now is not natural and it is not right," he said.

"The last thing I want for America's pastime is to make it be the subject of a witch hunt," he said. But Congress has to take action because the owners and players themselves are not, he said.

"It's not their game," he said. "It's ours. They're just enjoying the privilege of playing it for a short time. What I think many of the players do not understand is that many players came before them, and many will come after them. They all need to protect the integrity of the greatest game ever."

The committee also heard from the parents of Rob Taylor, a baseball player from Southern California who used steroids and committed suicide.

"There's no doubt in our minds that steroids killed our son," Rob's mother, Dr. Denise Garibaldi, told the committee. "In his mind he did what baseball heroes like Canseco had done."

Dr. Garibaldi and her husband, Raymond Garibaldi, said that unbeknown to them, their son had been encouraged to take drugs to bulk up by scouts and trainers and coaches since he was in high school. They noticed changes in his demeanor and his behavior, but he had denied to them that he used them, Dr. Garibaldi said.

"He told us, I don't do drugs. I'm a ballplayer," she said.

"Baseball is not life," she said. "Baseball is a game."

Another parent, Donald Hooton Sr., lashed out angrily at the players, saying that their use of steroids had been emulated by his son, Taylor, a high school football player who also committed suicide.

"You are cheaters, you are cowards," he said. "You're afraid to step on the field without the aid of performance enhancing substances."

He said the players who were testifying "should be man enough to face the authorities, admit the truth and face the consequences," instead of "hiding behind the skirts of your union."

"I'm sick and tired of having you tell us you don't want to be considered role models," he said. "You are role models."
post #2 of 2
I don't get it. If Cancesco was worried about incriminating himself, why did he write the book? I really can't think of any reason for him to do that, other than $$, course.
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