McGwire Sought Immunity in 2005
Mark McGwire said Monday that he wanted to come clean with his steroid and human growth hormone use five years ago but he couldn't get immunity from the federal government.
So instead of an admission, he made his infamous "I will not talk about the past" statement in a March 2005 congressional hearing on baseball and steroids.
Until Monday, the image of McGwire in glasses, suit and tie and raising his right hand in oath was the last the public had seen of the man who hit 583 home runs, including a then-record 70 in 1998 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I was ready, willing and prepared to tell my story and come clean," McGwire said in a telephone interview Monday with USA TODAY.
He said his two lawyers were trying to exchange his testimony for immunity from Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"If I didn't get immunity, I could face prosecution," McGwire said. "Here I am sitting there and wanting to tell my story. There were two scenarios. But the immunity didn't come through. So I sat there and said, 'I didn't want to talk about the past.' "
McGwire recalled that as he said those words, he heard sounds of dissatisfaction from Don Hooton and his family. Hooton's son, Taylor, a high school athlete in Plano, Texas, used steroids and killed himself in 2003.
"It ripped my heart out," McGwire said. "I did this to protect myself and my family. Anybody in my position would have done the same thing. I took the hits for five years. I took the bullets to protect my family."
Hooton, who was sitting behind McGwire during the hearing, said he remembers his disappointment when McGwire made that statement.
"It was just unreal," Hooton said. "A characteristic of a steroids user is denial. But not speaking to the legal issues, we didn't know what to think."
After the hearing, Hooton said Davis told them McGwire had requested immunity. "Then," Hooton said, "we understood."
Waxman said in a statement Monday that McGwire did the right thing because it "sends an important message to kids about avoiding steroids."
Davis told AOL Fanhouse that he thought McGwire would have talked with immunity: "He wouldn't talk without it, and I don't blame him. He had a family to protect."