League has no recourse for old violations

Updated: October 6, 2004, 12:04 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- New York Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield will not be penalized by the commissioner's office after his admission that he unknowingly used a cream two years ago that contained illegal steroids.

Sports Illustrated reported in this week's issue that the New York outfielder was supplied a cream by BALCO, the California lab at the center of a federal probe into illegal steroids distribution.

Sheffield said he applied the cream on his surgically repaired right knee in 2002. He was not told it contained an illegal steroid, the magazine said.

Under baseball's labor deal, players with major league contracts were each tested once for steroids this season. A provision allows more frequent testing if a joint management-labor panel of physicians finds "reasonable cause."

"There is a reasonable-cause provision in the Basic Agreement, but it is limited to activity within the last 12 months. Obviously, this activity was before the 12-month window," Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, said at Yankee Stadium before Tuesday's AL playoff series opener against Minnesota.

"The more important issue is what are people doing today. That's why we have a testing program and we have good information on all major league players as a result of the testing program," Manfred said.

Sheffield also told ESPN he used another steroid called ``the clear'' for two months, the network reported Tuesday. He said it was to aid his recovery from workouts and that he stopped using it because it wasn't helping.

Bob Holley, the lawyer for BALCO president Victor Conte, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday that "BALCO provided Gary Sheffield with no illegal substances and the check BALCO received from Sheffield was for legal nutritional supplements."

Sheffield refused to address the situation Tuesday but said it would not distract him.

"I always speak my mind, like I told you all that before. That's a story I did before, and I stick by that and that's the end of it," he said.

"Unfortunately, everything always comes out when it's a special moment for me and my teammates," he said. "Same thing happened the first day of spring training, the same thing happens the first day of the playoffs. I'm looking forward to getting it behind me and moving forward."

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he would be surprised if the issue distracts Sheffield.

"Sheff had to deal with this in spring training. He's all baseball, as far as I'm concerned," Torre said. "I guess if you're going to play in any town that gets you used to distractions, it's this one. So maybe he's had some practice, being able to focus on what he needs to focus on."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press