Lawyer: Immunity, or Canseco might take the 5th

Updated: March 5, 2005, 1:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Jose Canseco is ready to raise his hand and take the oath. While current players and executives were uncertain whether they will testify before a congressional committee investigating steroids, the MVP-turned-bestselling author had no qualms.

"We'll be there on the 16th and 17th," Canseco's agent, Doug Ames, said Friday.

Congress' List of Invitees

Panel I
Jose Canseco
Jason Giambi
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Curt Schilling
Sammy Sosa
Frank Thomas

Panel II
Bud Selig
Sandy Alderson
Don Fehr
Kevin Towers

But while other high-profile players and executives debate whether they will participate, Canseco's lawyer told ESPN Radio on Friday that there are conditions about what Canseco might say. Canseco wants immunity in exchange for his testimony.

On "The Sports Bash," attorney Robert Saunooke said that Canseco wants to give Congress "the information they want, but we don't want them to use us as an example. If we don't get the immunity we want, I imagine we'll take the Fifth Amendment on a majority of the questions they ask."

However, Canseco told ESPN's Pedro Gomez that he does not believe he needs immunity from prosecution in order to testify and that he is definitely leaning toward accepting the invitation from Congress.

"I have nothing to hide,'' Canseco told Gomez. "Everything I have to say is in my book, but if they want me to go, I'll be there. It will be interesting if others go and hide behind the Fifth Amendment. If that happens, well, I think people can make up their own minds when it comes to those types of answers.''

In Canseco's book, "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big,'' he admits using steroids and alleges that Mark McGwire often injected the drugs with him. He also said he introduced steroids to former Rangers teammates. All have publicly denied Canseco's charges.

Jason Giambi, Canseco's former Oakland Athletics teammate, said it was "highly unlikely" he would testify before the House Government Reform Committee, which on Thursday scheduled the hearing for March 17. Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was unsure whether he would appear and whether the hearing would be productive.

"It depends on what it's for," Schilling said in Fort Myers, Fla.

"I mean, if this is a McCarthy witch hunt all over again, then no. But, again, I don't know any of the specifics around what it entails and what's going on."

McGwire, who combined with Canseco to form the Bash Brothers on the World Series champion Athletics, also was undecided.

"We're still evaluating," McGwire spokesman Marc Altieri said. "I can't say one way or the other."

Said Canseco's attorney Saunooke to ESPN Radio: "Jose has been very candid and very honest so far. I don't know if Mark and the rest of them are ready to be as honest."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and executive vice president Sandy Alderson had not made their decisions, spokesman Rich Levin said, and San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers declined comment.

The players' association had not yet decided whether union head Donald Fehr would testify or what recommendation it would give to the invited players, according to union general counsel Michael Weiner.

However, any invited witness who turns down an offer to testify will be subpoenaed by the committee, a person familiar with the committee's plans confirmed to the New York Times.

"This is no bluff," said the person, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity.

That could present a sticky situation for New York Yankees slugger Giambi, who was given limited immunity in 2003 when he testified before a federal grand jury investigating illegal steroid distribution.

"We think it's a little early to talk about who's confirmed their attendance," said David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who chairs the committee.

At the Yankees training camp, Giambi said he had a brief conversation with his agent, Arn Tellem, about the invitation.

"I have no idea what they are trying to do," Giambi said. "I'm just concentrating on playing baseball."

In December, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Giambi told the grand jury he had used steroids. Barry Bonds, who was not invited by the committee, told the grand jury he used a substance that prosecutors believe contained steroids, the paper said.

Giambi has declined to discuss steroids publicly but issued a general apology last month to teammates and fans. Bonds testily sidestepped questions when he arrived at spring training.

"The fact that the questions are surrounding him certainly doesn't dilute the fact that's he a Hall of Famer before all the questions were asked," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the San Francisco Giants slugger.

"That's the thing I think is going to be lost in this whole thing -- everybody is curious about the last year or two years or whatever, and it's going to demolish his whole career."

Baltimore Orioles Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro were invited to testify, as was Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox.

"March 17th is my wife's birthday. That should tell you right there what my answer is," Palmeiro said at camp in Fort Lauderdale.

"Honestly, I don't really have anything to say on the subject. I don't want anything to do with that stuff. All I'm interested in right now is just getting ready to play baseball and staying here with my team. I'm flattered that they've invited me, but I'll respectfully decline the invitation."

Sosa isn't ready to respond.

"I don't know about that yet. I have to call my agent,'' he said.

Thomas, recovering from an injury, is not due to report to spring training until Monday. Like Giambi, he is represented by Tellem, who did not return a telephone message.

Giambi has the go-ahead from the Yankees to testify.

"If he chose to go, we'd support him. We'd support the concept of him going," general manager Brian Cashman said.

"It's up to Jason and his representatives to make those decisions. We'd give him the day."

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said the team would not prevent a player from leaving spring training to testify.

"To take a day off for something like that, certainly we've accommodated that before," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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