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MARK EDWARDS

McGwire didn't help baseball

Mark McGwire is entitled to privacy.

The retired baseball star is within his rights to not answer most questions at a congressional hearing, like he did Thursday when he appeared before the House Government Reform Committee.

But McGwire missed an opportunity by refusing to say anything of value at the hearing.

He told the congressmen that he wants to help by serving as a national spokesman against steroids, but why didn't he start Thursday?

He could've swayed public thinking about this issue, and instead, his closed-mouth non-testimony will damage his sport even more. Stonewalling Congress on national television won't make the pressure or the questions go away.

Sure, the committee should have better things to investigate than steroids, but if you're forced to be there, why not try to get something good accomplished?

Why make yourself — and baseball, a sport that was so good to you — look bad by being so uncooperative?

Why sit there with a blank look, refusing to budge from your stance, even when one congressman points out that sitting directly behind you is a family who lost their son to steroids and said their boy idolized you?

In another instance, a congressmen asked McGwire about how, in 1998, a bottle of androstenedione, a steroid precursor, was found in his locker.

The congressmen, explaining that he simply wanted to be educated, asked McGwire to cover the circumstances that led to him using "andro."

McGwire refused and said he wasn't there to talk about the past and only wanted to talk about the future. Why is a question about "andro" so touchy?

Why sidestep questions about baseball's steroid policy? McGwire played in the majors for 16 seasons. Doesn't it seem silly that he won't admit to even having an opinion on the policy?

In one sense, McGwire's silence is understandable.

In McGwire's opening statement, he said he wouldn't answer questions about whether he took steroids, adding, "If a player answers 'No,' he simply will not be believed. If he answers 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations."

Hey, that's like the old "do you deny you beat your wife?" question. There's no good way to answer it, and it's hard to find fault with someone not wanting to try.

Also, it's just as invalid to try to guilt someone into opening up by asking, "If you have nothing to hide, why not cooperate?"

People ask that when they've got nothing better with which to compel someone to talk. Privacy shouldn't be given up only to satisfy some moron's curiosity.

And it's unfair for the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard Pound, to say Friday about McGwire: "What I saw and heard was a confession."

But if McGwire didn't want to answer the question Thursday, why has he been so willing to release statements previously saying that he didn't use steroids?

When he had a chance to make his strongest statement yet, he dodged the question.

Two other baseball standouts, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero, apparently had no problem testifying that they didn't use steroids.

Why did McGwire refuse, even if he thought nobody would believe him?

Remember, there's no conclusive proof that he did, because steroid testing didn't begin until last season, which is three years after McGwire retired.

Why did he turn his back on baseball like he did, even though it damaged his reputation in the process?

Something tells me that nobody will take up McGwire on his offer to be a national spokesman on anything anytime soon.

Mark Edwards Mark Edwards
DAILY Sports Editor

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