McGwire said he wanted to come forward at the congressional hearing on March 17, 2005, when he sat alongside Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, who denied using steroids but tested positive for one later that year.
“I wanted to get this off my chest, I wanted to move on, but unfortunately immunity was not granted,” he said.
McGwire’s lawyers, Mark Bierbower and Marty Steinberg, told him that if he made any admission, he could be charged with a crime and that he, his family and friends could be forced to testify before a grand jury.
“That was the worst 48 hours of my life, going through that, but I had to listen to the advice of my attorneys,” he said.
He knew that Don Hooton, whose son had died from steroids use, was in the audience.
“Every time I’d say, ‘I’m not going to talk about the past,’ I’d hear moanings back there. It was absolutely ripping my heart out,” McGwire said, his voice cracking. “All I was worried about was protecting my family and myself. And I was willing to take the hit.”
Bierbower told the AP in a telephone interview that he had instructed McGwire not to make any admissions before Congress.
“He also had a situation where his brother had been giving him steroids and he didn’t want to create a risk for his brother, either,” Bierbower said.
Following McGwire’s decision to go public, La Russa immediately praised his former star.
“His willingness to admit mistakes, express his regret and explain the circumstances that led him to use steroids add to my respect for him,” the manager said.
But for many, McGwire’s remarks were only confirmation of what they already concluded.
“He knows he owes the baseball world an explanation,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who chaired the hearing. “I think we all knew this. I don’t think anybody’s surprised by this. He was one of hundreds of players who used steroids during this time. ... This was so widespread. Had we not held these hearings and put the fear of God into baseball, it would still be going on.”
McGwire followed the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte and Rodriguez in his decision to publicly admit using performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire wouldn’t say whether other players in a similar situation should follow his example.
“That’s for them to decide, what they need to do,” he said. “It’s been a rough morning, I’m ready to take it on and tell my story, again, to be honest and hope we can just move on from this.”
McGwire in cartoons
Look at Mark McGwire's steroid admission, seen through the eyes of cartoonists.
Baseball's steroid scandal