Rep. Davis: McGwire wanted to tell truth
Ex-Congressman says slugger admitted use in private in '05
Mark McGwire's admission that he took steroids was not a surprise to former Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who brought the slugger to Congress in 2005. Davis told The Associated Press on Monday that McGwire admitted his past steroid use in a private meeting before the hearing.
Davis, who was the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005, when McGwire testified he would not "talk about the past," told The AP he met with the slugger for three hours before the hearing and that during the private session, McGwire made it clear he had used steroids but was afraid of legal troubles if he admitted it at the hearing.
"He would have been a nice head to put on somebody's mantel. So he basically took the Fifth [Amendment]," Davis told The AP.
"It was very clear to everybody involved that he had taken steroids. Otherwise he would have gotten up there and denied it, but he couldn't. ... He looked ridiculous to most of the public, but he didn't have many good options. We put him in a pretty tight spot. He was candid and honest in our interrogation of him. He said: 'Some day, I'll tell the story.'"
Davis' words match what McGwire told MLB Network's Bob Costas when he said he was advised by his lawyers Mark Bierbower and Marty Steinberg not to talk about his steroid use, even though he wanted to come clean.
"We were in meetings downstairs with Congressman [Henry] Waxman, and Congressman Davis," McGwire told Costas. "I wanted to talk. I kept telling myself, 'I want to get this off my chest.' Well, we didn't get immunity. So here I am in a situation where I have two scenarios, where a possible prosecution or possible grand jury testimonies."
"Well you know what happens when there's a prosecution? You bring in your whole family, you bring in your whole friends, you bring in ex-teammates, coaches, anybody that's surrounding you. How the heck am I going to to bring those people in for some stupid act that I did? So you know what I did? We agreed to not talk about the past. And it was not enjoyable to do that."
Davis also confirmed to The AP that he was turned down when he asked then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to grant McGwire immunity in exchange for honest testimony to Congress.
That 2005 Congressional panel heard more than 10 hours of testimony from executives of baseball and its players' union, as well as star players such as McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco; and others, including Donald Hooton, whose son committed suicide after using steroids.
Hooton also talked to The AP, saying that he hopes that McGwire can now be a spokesman against the dangers of steroid use.
"I do think he can make a good spokesman on this topic," Hooton said. "Who better to describe what it's like to go to the mountaintop and now to be at the depths of the deepest valley for a mistake you made several years ago?"
McGwire also talked about the Hooton family in his interview with Costas, saying it pained him not to talk about his steroid use knowing that Hooton was at the hearing.
"I'm gonna tell you right now, standing up there, or sitting up there, listening, the Hooten family or the other families behind me that lost their loved one ... and every time that I kept on saying, 'I'm not talking about the past,' I hear these moans," McGwire said. "It was killing me.
"I was not gonna lie. I was not going to lie. I wanted to tell the truth, but because of the position I was in -- to protect my family, to protect me -- I decided that I would take the hits. I think anybody's going to take the hits. I've been taking hits for five years. It doesn't feel very good."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.