A House committee investigating steroid use in baseball yesterday excused New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi from testifying at a hearing tomorrow, citing Giambi's participation as a witness in a federal grand jury case. However, five of the other six current and former players who were subpoenaed last week have indicated plans to attend the hearing, leaving only former slugger Mark McGwire as a question mark.
In excusing Giambi, who allegedly admitted using steroids in testimony to the grand jury in December 2003, the committee said it was acting on the wishes of the Justice Department, which is leading the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).
A House committee investigating steroid use in baseball excused Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi from testifying at Wednesday's hearing.
(Kathy Willens - AP)
_____From The Post_____
Mike Wise: The steroid issue extends beyond baseball.
Jason Giambi will not have to testify at Wednesday's hearing.
"From the outset, we have said that we in no way wanted our inquiry to impede or complicate any ongoing investigations by law enforcement," Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking minority member of the committee, said in a statement. "All other invited witnesses, however, will be expected to comply with the subpoenas issued to them last week."
While Giambi will remain with the Yankees at spring training in Florida, Baltimore Orioles stars Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa were making plans to leave Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this evening in order to attend tomorrow's 10 a.m. hearing, according to Orioles officials. Both were alleged to have used steroids by former slugger Jose Canseco in his recent tell-all book, but both have denied the charges.
"I'm still going, as far as I know," Palmeiro said late yesterday afternoon, after a request by his lawyer that he be excused from the hearing was denied by the committee.
A source close to the committee said it had received word from three other subpoenaed players -- Canseco, Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox and Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox -- that they would appear. Thomas had also requested, through his attorneys, that he be excused, but that request also was denied. Thomas and Schilling were asked to appear because of their outspoken views against steroid use.
However, McGwire, according to sources, may be preparing to skip the hearing in defiance of his subpoena, an action that could leave him susceptible to a charge of contempt of Congress, which, if he is convicted, carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.
McGwire's attorneys met with committee members yesterday but did not commit to McGwire's attending tomorrow's hearing.
"Mr. McGwire's reluctance to appear," said a source close to the committee, "was implicit in everything his representatives said."
McGwire, who broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998, has retained Washington attorney Mark B. Bierbower to represent him, a move that could signal his intentions, according to sources.
Bierbower, a partner in the firm Hunton and Williams, gained fame in 1984 for successfully defending a client, former Environmental Protection Agency official Rita M. Lavelle, from a contempt of Congress charge. In winning Lavelle's acquittal, Bierbower successfully proved errors in the serving of her subpoena.
"This is a guy," said a source, "who is not afraid of taking [Congress] on."
Bierbower did not return a telephone message yesterday, and a spokesman for McGwire, Marc Altieri, declined to comment, other than to confirm that McGwire had been served his subpoena through his attorneys.
Ironically, the prosecuting attorney who lost to Bierbower in Lavelle's contempt of Congress case in 1984, Stanley M. Brand, is representing MLB in regards to the hearing. Yesterday, Brand sent the committee a three-page letter outlining baseball's legal objections to the hearing.
Also yesterday, MLB President Robert DuPuy and Executive Vice President for Labor Relations Rob Manfred returned to New York following two days of negotiations with the committee over the terms of the hearing. Brand said MLB came away from the negotiations satisfied that the witnesses -- who, in addition to the players, will include Commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr -- will not be asked about players' individual use of steroids.
"They've said they're not going to ask about individual use," Brand said. "The issue is dragging these [players] in under oath to quote-unquote clear their names based on innuendo and half-truths." Asked if he was satisfied the committee members will not do that, Brand said, "That's what they say."
However, David Marin, the committee's deputy staff director, said players' own individual use of steroids is open to questioning by the committee.
Davis and Waxman "have made it clear from the get-go that they're not interested in asking players about other players' habits," Marin said. "[But] it's going to be hard to have a hearing on the players' perspectives on the [sport's] testing policy without asking about their own use."
Marin said the committee has encouraged witnesses to "get ahead of the curve" by addressing their own experiences with steroids in their opening statements tomorrow.
Staff writers Jorge Arangure Jr. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Amy Shipley in Miami contributed to this report.