There’s an article up at the New York Times about the 2005 steroid hearings before Congress. Good stuff that attempts to put it all in perspective at the end of the decade. But I still gotta take issue with one often-repeated sentiment about those hearings:
Sosa said he had never taken steroids and suggested that he was not all
too familiar with speaking English, lending some comedy to the
Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s not true that Sosa denied taking steroids before Congress. He said “To be clear, I have never taken illegal
performance-enhancing drugs.” He said “I have not broken the laws of
the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.” He said “I have been
tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”
Those statements — and
many others he made during his testimony — allow for the possibility
that he used substances that were legal in the Dominican Republic that
would have been illegal to use in the United States. Those substances could have been steroids of various stripes. We don’t know for sure because no one on that Congressional committee asked the basic sorts of followup questions that even junior lawyers are trained to ask. It was a big show to them, not a serious legal proceeding.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Sosa wasn’t trying to give the impression that he hadn’t taken steroids. Clearly he was trying to walk a very, very thin line between admitting using PEDs and committing perjury. It won’t get him any popularity votes, but he did, technically speaking, pull it off, and by doing so he was able to avoid any sort of perjury beef when his name popped up on the list last summer.
And though it is now characterized as “comedy,” the reason he was likely able to pull it off: his Spanish testimony. Those distinctions — I didn’t take illegal PEDs; I didn’t break the laws of the D.R. or the U.S. — were fairly subtle. They could have been easily messed up if he spoke in his second language instead of his native tongue. No matter how funny you found it, Sosa’s decision to testify in Spanish was pretty smart from a legal perspective.