Sosa won't criticize McGwire

Updated: March 19, 2005, 4:35 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Sammy Sosa refused to criticize Mark McGwire for not responding to a congressional committee's persistent questions about steroid use.

 Sammy Sosa

"Mark is a great person, a person that I respect," the Baltimore Orioles slugger said Saturday after batting practice at spring training. "I am not sitting here talking about his life in private. ... He's saying what [his lawyers] wanted him to say. What decision he made, I have to respect that."

Sosa was making his first public comments since testifying before the House Government Reform Committee on Thursday. The home run chase between Sosa and McGwire in 1998 helped reinvigorate baseball.

Sosa declined comment Saturday when asked if McGwire's testimony surprised him. The retired St. Louis Cardinals star repeatedly refused to answer lawmakers' questions about whether he had used steroids.

"I'm not talking about that," Sosa said.

Sosa thanked Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who chairs the committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman of California, its ranking Democrat, for the chance to clear his name.

Sosa was one of several players subpoenaed to testify about steroid use after the release of former major leaguer Jose Canseco's book, "Juiced."

"To my understanding, that was the right message to send to the world -- to stop steroids," Sosa said. "At least they started."

Sosa pledged his support in the committee's quest to eradicate steroid use, particularly among children.

"Kids need to understand that steroids aren't the way to go. To use them, it's bad," Sosa said. "It's wrong, it's no good. They need to know that you can do the same things through hard work and dedication."

The testimony of parents whose children had died as a result to steroid use was particularly difficult for Sosa to hear.

"That really broke my heart," he said. "As a parent -- I've got four kids -- I send my sympathy to those families."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press