Congressional hearings shed little light on MLB steroid scandal

March 25, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 5 months ago

Just a few years ago, Mark McGwire was the uniting force in baseball. His large smile and even larger biceps were powering a movement to revitalize a sport ravaged by strikes. Each homerun had fans screaming with joy as they saw McGwire march closer and closer to Maris's sacred record of 61 home runs in a season. That race to beat the Maris's record in 1998 has been credited with saving baseball from itself and the strike during the 1994 season. And while Sammy Sosa, who also raced McGwire, has already had his reputation thrown away because of a corked bat, McGwire has stood alone as a hero to the game since he retired.

In just one day, that image of perfection crumbled as McGwire essentially pleaded the Fifth during the congressional hearings, refusing to shed any light on a conflict large enough to permanently stain the game and erase what he previously did. While other players stayed silent, it was McGwire who stood out in the crowd. He would not deny or approve of anything, moving from topic to topic so stoically that no one could remember the beaming smile of the past. People expected that smile to appear, for McGwire to take a stand and talk about the reality in Major League Baseball, but he did not.

McGwire stood uneasily as he repeatedly said, "I'm retired," and moved onto the next question which he again would not answer. When asked if he had ever taken steroids during his major league career he gave an equally bland answer: "I'm not here to talk about the past." With each lawyer-written response, McGwire's credibility waned further and further. While he previously has denied his own steroid use, when it came to probably the most important day of his career he was silent. It was a missed opportunity for McGwire and Major League Baseball to take a step forward and admit the truth of a situation saturated by lies.

McGwire, even if he admitted to steroid use, would not have been doing anything illegal within MLB. Steroids, which have been illegal if not prescribed since 1991, were not outlawed within the league until 2002, giving McGwire a chance to innocently shed a light a situation that seems to be getting hazier and hazier each day without threatening his place in the Hall of Fame or the record books.

Players seem to be constantly revoking statements about the prominence of drug use in baseball, and many athletes disagree as to how prevalent steroid use is in MLB. This confusion among the players led many to search for answers. If "Juiced," the book about the steroid situation in baseball, were taken as truth, then it would seem that almost half an entire league is at taking steroids at any one time. McGwire had the chance to end that rumor, and yet he did nothing except repeat empty words towards a Congress and a country hoping for an answer.

It was this silence that actually shined the most light on the latest scandal in Major League Baseball. It showed the cowardice that McGwire and the entire league have had for years when dealing with criticism with their steroid policy as well as the inability to acknowledge a serious problem and install measures to prevent its spread.

It has exposed the blatant ignorance of Commissioner Bud Selig in recognizing the problem before it became publicized. It now seems that rumors of Selig's involvement in allowing steroid use have gained much more validity. What was once an absurd question now has a new relevance: Did Selig know about steroid use and allow it to continue unchecked? Many sports columnists have debated the issue hoping the answer is no, but with each day of hearings to follow, it seems more and more likely that the answer is yes.

When the last strike ended and baseball returned, ratings and attendance were down, and it seemed as if fans had lost faith in their sport. These hearings seem to have demonstrated that there was a collusion between Selig and the Union to not test for steroids as way to increase run production and bring people back to the game. If this is proved true, not only would it be degrading to baseball as a sport, but also to the people of this country, who were taken as fools because MLB thought it was above the law.

Thus, when hearings resume, which they most likely will, I, and most likely every other baseball fan, will hope that someone stands up to speak to Congress and clear up this convoluted situation. Hopefully McGwire can put his selfish desires to be remembered as a clean player away and tell the truth for the good of the game and the fans.

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