Big Mac took the Fifth?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

In the court of public opinion, one of the worst things a public person can do is invoke their Fifth Amendment right. While the Amendment was written into the Bill of Rights as a legal way for a person not to incriminate themselves, in the view of the people, it does just the opposite.

Thursday morning Major League Baseball's heaviest hitters took the stand to take a swing at steroid accusations that had been thrown out like gopher balls at a home run derby by Jose Canseco in his book Juiced.

Sammy Sosa denied the use of illegal performance enhancing substances not once but nearly four times in a prepared statement read by his lawyer and then Raphael Palmeiro angrily pointed a finger at the Senate Hearing Committee and vehemently denied ever using or being associated with someone who used steroids.

Then it was Big Mac's turn to talk.

Mark McGwire sat behind the table dressed more like a professor of physics than a one time physical specimen. Dressed in a conservative suit and St. Patrick's Day green tie, the elder statesmen of the group never denied using steroids.

In his statement he said that he gave $3 million to his foundation that supported children who had been abused. He also mentioned how much of a team player he was and would never out teammates. He also said that he wouldn't dignify allegations and accusations that he used steroids in a book written by a convicted criminal.

But, the ending of the dissertation signified a gray-flagged surrender.

"If a "player" sitting here before today's congressional hearing claims he did not use steroids, he simply will not be believed. If a player says he did use steroids, he risks a public scorn and endless government investigation….Without jeopardizing my friends, family and myself."

He silently pled the Fifth.

He had every opportunity to step to the forefront of the trial and call his once teammate nothing but a big, fat liar or an individual who has misplaced his facts with lies if a person wanted to go the PR rout.

McGwire is in this situation with nothing to lose. Yet, by not saying a word, he stands to lose everything – respect and admiration. In his career, McGwire slugged 70 home runs to break Roger Maris record. He finished his Major League Baseball career with 583 long balls and played in both the American and National Leagues yet he won no Most Valuable Player honors and only one Gold Glove in his career.

He is retired from the Bigs and will never be tested again for steroids or any performance enhacing substances. Yet his answers proved to be vague and dodgy at best.

It's sad to see a man that was once so intimidating and feared by pitchers sitting there, refusing to be the great man that he gave off the impression as being.

It's sad when a hero falls. Especially when one does it by waving a white flag. After all, he was under oath, maybe that's why he couldn't answer – the whole truth aspect of things.

It's that simple.

Griffin Pritchard is the sports editor of the Greenville advocate. He can be reached via email at or via phone at 382-3111. ext. 122.