Pete Rose Jr., the son of baseball's all-time hits leader, pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he distributed GBL, a drug sometimes sold as a steroid alternative, to his minor league teammates.

The 35-year-old Rose appeared before a federal judge in Nashville and said nothing but "yes, sir" when asked if he understood the charges and plea.

Rose could be sentenced to 21 to 24 months in federal prison and fined up to $1 million under terms of his deal with prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul O'Brien said. The sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 20.

"This is a tragedy. Anyone who knows this young man knows he is a very, very fine young man," Rose's attorney, Jeffrey Brody, said outside the courthouse. "The use of this stuff is common. It's used as a sleep aid by many people in sports. And he got caught in a time warp because it was legal up to 2000. He came forward and immediately confessed and accepted responsibility."

The indictment said Rose admitted he received GBL from a person in Tennessee while a member of the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Cincinnati Reds' Class AA affiliate.

He also said he supplied half the players on that team with the drug. Rose said his teammates would take GBL to "wind down" after games, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.

According to evidence presented to Judge Robert Echols, Rose began purchasing GBL in July 2001, receiving about five cases from July 2001 to May 2002. Rose also admitted to selling the drug. . . .

Former Washington Redskins star Timmy Smith and his brother pleaded not guilty in Denver to cocaine possession charges.

If convicted, they could face between five and 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine. Prosecutors accuse the 41-year-old Smith and brother Chris of trying to sell cocaine to an undercover drug agent in September. They were arrested after Timmy Smith allegedly delivered 20 ounces of cocaine to an undercover agent in a restaurant parking lot.

* AUTO RACING: Former NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs Racing said they will part ways at the end of the season after 11 years together.

Labonte joined JGR in 1995 and earned all 21 of his career victories in the No. 18 Chevrolet. He and Gibbs's won their first championship in 2000. But Labonte's career has stalled since he won his title. . . .

Jamie McMurray gained his release from Chip Ganassi Racing, clearing the way for a driver swap that affects three teams.

Reigning Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch will go to Penske Racing to replace Rusty Wallace, who is retiring at the end of the season. McMurray will take over Busch's ride at Roush Racing and Ganassi is altering his plans for the 2006 season, deciding to field three cars rather than replacing McMurray.

* BOXING: Vitali Klitschko will be stripped of the WBC heavyweight title if a knee injury takes more than three months to heal. The title would be awarded to former champion Hasim Rahman, WBC President Jose Sulaiman said. He said Klitschko was given at least another week for doctors to determine the severity of the injury that led him to again cancel a bout against Rahman.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Virginia's Nov. 19 home game against Virginia Tech will begin at noon and be televised nationally by ESPN. Maryland's home game against Boston College the same day will begin at noon and be shown on WDCA-20.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports