These words may go down in history as an example of the worst legal advice ever. Obviously, when Mark McGwire uttered those words in front of the Senate hearings in Washington they weren't his own. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable and putting on some kind of rehearsed act. His lawyers had told him that if he wanted to avoid criminal prosecution, he needed to stay away from the truth...or lies. So what did he do? He danced around somewhere in the middle. And, because of that dancing, he was snubbed by the baseball writers for the Hall of Fame today.
I contend that had McGwire blurted out the truth, or lied like Rafael Palmeiro, he still might not have been voted in today, but he would have been better off.
The truth might have sounded something like this:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate panel, and baseball fans everywhere. I come here today to lay myself bare and own up to what I have done with regard to steroids and performance enhancing substances. As you probably know, I have used, and admitted using, androstenedione in the past. This substance, when I used it, was not illegal in any way. I have also in the past experimented with steroids and human growth hormone. And when I did, they too were not on baseball's banned substances list. So, now that these substances are banned, and illegal to use, I am profoundly sorry for having put myself in a situation where I thought I was enhancing myself, my team, and my sport with their use. Looking back, I wish they hadn't been available to me, or anyone else in our sport. And, I wish the sport had done more to discourage players from using them. I truly believed that these substances were just another part of an overall training regimen that I was using to create the best possible athlete I could be. I also realized that there was a possibility that I would be creating some long-term physical problems for myself with the use of these substances. That, at the time, was a price I was willing to pay in order to achieve at the highest possible level. Once again, let me say that I am profoundly unhappy with the choice that I made then. I am sorry for having made it, and will do anything and everything possible to discourage young people from going down the same path. I also stand ready to answer any question anyone may have in a private, but legal, forum away from national exposure. This would initially protect anyone I might name from immediate scorn and humiliation. Please understand that I was operating in a time and place that featured vastly different attitudes, opinions and rules about these substances than we are in today. Once again ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for what I have done. And I hope you might be able to put yourself in my shoes of ten years ago to understand the issue from my perspective. Thank you. "
An untruthful presentation might have gone like this:
(Pointing at the panel with index finger extended) "I don't know how to say this any more clearly. I have never, ever used performance-enhancing substances of any kind. And I challenge you, or anyone else, to prove otherwise. I will be happy to cooperate in any way to help discourage young people from using these terrible substances. Thank you."
Gee, that sounds familiar. Doesn't it?
Had McGwire lied on that day in '05, he may have been voted into The Hall today. Noone could have proven between now and then that he took 'roids. Although everyone believes he's guilty, noone has definitively, conclusively, and without doubt, proven that Barry Bonds did...and he's the poster boy for the stuff. McGwire might have slid by if he gave a strong performance to the Senate.
Had he told the truth, I believe he would have done himself far more good than harm. America is a forgiving place. We have had famous criminals and ne'er-do-wells forgiven many times over for much more dispicable acts than steroid use. I think had "Big Mac" fessed up on that day he would have been the first "steroid era" player to go into The Hall. And he could have done it in a positive, society-changing way. His speech at the induction ceremony might have been the opportunity to leave a lasting and wonderful legacy that would have rid baseball and all sports of the "steroids cloud". But, unfortunately, he didn't want to talk about the past.