Giambi excused due to ties to ongoing BALCO case

Updated: March 16, 2005, 12:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Jason Giambi can concentrate on hitting instead of testifying.

 Jason Giambi
Giambi

The New York Yankees slugger was excused from appearing at Thursday's congressional hearing on steroids in baseball (10 a.m. ET). The top Democrat on the committee said it's possible other players also could have subpoenas withdrawn even as Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling made plans to appear.

Baltimore's Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro were given the day off Thursday, an indication they also may testify.

Commissioner's discretion
Commissioner Bud Selig has discretion to suspend or fine players who test positive under Major League Baseball's new steroid policy.

MLB vice president Rob Manfred told ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike on Wednesday morning that both baseball and the players' association have agreed that positive tests will result in suspensions.

"In all but the most extraordinary of circumstances the suspension would be automatic," Manfred said.

Any player sanctioned, whether suspended or fined, would be publicly named, Manfred said.

Rob Manfred

Jose Canseco already has said he'll be there, but it's unclear whether Mark McGwire will show up and comply with the subpoena he was issued last week.

Giambi does not have to go to Washington because of his involvement in the ongoing federal investigation into illegal steroid distribution, House Government Reform committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis and ranking Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman said Tuesday. Giambi testified in 2003 before a grand jury probing the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, and the San Francisco Chronicle reported in December that he admitted before that panel that he had used steroids.

"I appreciate that Mr. Davis and Mr. Waxman saw the situation that I was in and let me be excused," Giambi said Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., before boarding the Yankees team bus for a game against the Pirates in Bradenton. "I would have done whatever they would have asked me to do and go from there. They gave me an opportunity to focus on baseball so I appreciate that."

BALCO founder Victor Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente, Barry Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson, and track coach Remi Korchemny were indicted in the case, and trial dates have not yet been scheduled. A hearing was postponed Tuesday, with Anderson's lawyer saying her client would prefer a deal.

Bonds and Gary Sheffield, who also testified before the grand jury, were not among the seven current and former players subpoenaed by the committee last week.

In a letter sent to the committee accompanying more than 400 pages of documents Monday, baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred said just 12 of 1,133 tests last year were positive, and that positive tests from nandrolone dropped from 73 in 2003 to one last year.

Davis and Waxman waited until Tuesday evening to make the announcement on Giambi.

"From the outset, we have said that we in no way wanted our inquiry to impede or complicate any ongoing investigations by law enforcement," they said in a joint statement. "Upon hearing today from the Justice Department that Mr. Giambi's appearance could do just that, we have decided to excuse him from testifying. All other invited witnesses, however, will be expected to comply with the subpoenas issued to them last week."

Former AL MVP Canseco, whose recent book accuses several stars of steroid use, also was subpoenaed along with McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Thomas and Schilling.

Lawyers for Giambi, Palmeiro and Thomas sent the committee letters Monday asking that their clients be excused, citing Giambi's prior testimony and the adverse effects travel would have on Thomas' recovery from an ankle injury.

"It's still a dynamic process," Waxman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We're still talking to the different subpoenaed witnesses. Until you hear otherwise, we expect them there. I expect everybody to be there. And the only reason Giambi is being excused is the Justice Department's request that he not testify because it might interfere with other ongoing investigations they're doing."

Chicago White Sox trainer Herm Schneider said Thomas left Tucson, Ariz., on Tuesday, would stop at his home in Las Vegas, then would travel to Washington.

Schilling said Tuesday he will honor a subpoena to testify Thursday. Had he been able to stay at spring training rather than testify, he would have thrown the simulated game on Monday or Tuesday.

"There's never going to be a good time for something like this," he said of the hearing. "We had to rearrange my entire schedule this week."

Schilling said he was working with his lawyer on what questions to expect from the committee.

"If legally I have to go, I'm going. ... When you get subpoenaed, you don't have a choice," he said. "I only know what I'm going to say in my statement and be prepared to answer questions."

It remained unclear whether McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro would comply with their subpoenas.

"Anything can happen," a source told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. The source also said attorneys for the seven players have been conferring, but negotiating individually, with the House committee on government reform.

"There has been a lot of dialogue," the source said. "But at the end of the day, these guys are going to do what they think they've got to do, out of whatever choices there are. It won't be a case of all [seven] guys showing up or all of them not showing up."

Another source told Stark that players have been negotiating with the committee on a variety of subjects, ranging from potential grants of immunity to limiting the nature of what questions can appropriately be asked. But one baseball man familiar with those negotiations says players have not been offered any form of immunity so far.

"If that's a card in the game," he said, "it's been held very close to the vest."

Luke Macaulay, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, would not comment on the decision to excuse Giambi.

Waxman said he and Davis would not try to get players to implicate others.

"Chairman Davis and I are not going to ask anybody to name any names of people who have used steroids. I don't think that would be proper in a public forum," Waxman said. "With that exception, there are no limits on the questions that we've agreed to. It may be part of the further discussions that have not yet been resolved."

The committee accepted baseball commissioner Bud Selig's offer to testify. Baseball executive vice presidents Manfred and Sandy Alderson also will testify, as will San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers and union head Donald Fehr.

Canseco met with Davis on Monday. The committee has not yet responded to Canseco's request for immunity, which would allow him to speak more freely.

"The committee will release the information as to the conditions for witnesses all at once, rather than one at a time," Waxman said.

Manfred's letter on Monday said "there were unresolved disputes" with 13 of the 96 positive tests in 2003. He said that if all the positives were accurate, there were 73 for nandrolone, 26 for stanozolol, eight for elevated testosterone, five for boldenone, three for methandrostenolone and one for clenbuterol. Some tests include positives for more than one substance.

Manfred said baseball did not have results from "for cause" tests given to players since 1990 because they went directly to doctors. He said those results also are protected by doctor-patient privilege.

Contents of Manfred's letter were first posted on the Web site of The New York Times, and a copy of the letter later was obtained by the AP.

In a letter from baseball lawyer Stan Brand to the committee, sent Tuesday and also obtained by the AP, Brand stated "the courts have made it clear that educating the public about steroids is not a valid congressional function."

Brand still wants all players excused.

"This is not a law enforcement agency, this is a legislative forum," he said. "Why have them respond to innuendo and half-truths? It is to me the epitome of a legislative hearing that shouldn't be."

Also Tuesday, baseball chief operating officer Bob DuPuy sent a letter to teams asking them not to respond to a survey on the steroid situation sent by a publication.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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