The New York Yankees changed language in Jason Giambi's contract to remove the word "steroid" when he signed in 2001, a source close to the negotiations said yesterday. But the Yankees strongly deny knowing Giambi was using steroids when they signed the first baseman.
Sources close to the negotiations said the Yankees decided to change the language to cover chemical dependency of all kinds, which could include an addiction to legal prescription drugs and alcoholism. In Giambi's contract, the term "steroid" was replaced by phrases such as "controlled substances" and "chemical dependency," which the Yankees believe still fully protects them should the slugger ever be legally proven to have used performance-enhancing drugs.
The Yankees strongly deny knowing Jason Giambi was using steroids when they signed the first baseman.
(Ray Stubblebine - AP)
"Unequivocally, nobody in the New York Yankees organization had any knowledge that Jason Giambi was doing steroids," Yankees President Randy Levine said yesterday. "In fact we believe that the language that is in the contract specifically provides the Yankees appropriate rights to take action in that circumstance."
The New York Times reported yesterday that the team relented to Giambi's request to have any references to steroids removed from the contract, a direct implication the team was aware of the first baseman's drug use.
General Manager Brian Cashman, who did not return a phone call, adamantly denied knowing of Giambi's alleged steroid use on an ESPN radio show.
"First and foremost, I can honestly tell you the Yankees had no knowledge that there was steroid use with Jason Giambi whatsoever," Cashman said. "Common sense would rule the day if we did feel that way, then clearly we would have steered away and protected ourselves in the strongest way from the contract. The money that was being invested was so large."
On Thursday Giambi, in his first public comments since the San Francisco Chronicle reported he had admitted using steroids during his grand jury testimony in the BALCO case, apologized to the Yankees, his teammates, fans and the media, though he did not specifically say for what he was sorry. Giambi claimed he was not allowed by lawyers to make any confession.
According to George Washington University law professor Paul Butler, Giambi would not break any law by revealing his grand jury testimony.
"Witnesses to the grand jury can say whatever they want," Butler said.
More than likely, Giambi did not want to jeopardize losing the remaining $82 million in his contract. Even in private conversations with the Yankees, Giambi has not admitted steroid use.
"I'm not commenting on the specific terms of the contract," Art Tellem, Giambi's agent, said yesterday in a statement. "That is between Jason and the Yankees. Right now our focus is on the fact that Jason and the Yankees are united and moving forward and Jason is returning to form and getting ready to help the Yankees return to the World Series."
The Yankees appear willing to accept Giambi, but that may be because they have no other choice. Unless Giambi publicly admits to steroid use or his use can be proven in court, the team has no recourse. Should Giambi be proven as a steroid user, then the team could attempt to void the contract.
"The Yankees, after meeting with Jason and hearing Jason apologize and say he was going to comport in a different way, one that is expected of all Yankee players, the organization decided to give him another chance," Levine said.