Sheffield says he'll let union decide if he'll talk

Updated: February 27, 2007, 6:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Add another player to the list of those who might not cooperate with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

"The [players'] association told us this is just a witch hunt."
-- Gary Sheffield

Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield told USA Today that he doesn't plan to cooperate with Major League Baseball's steroids investigation, joining Barry Bonds as players who have said they will not cooperate.

"The [players'] association told us this is just a witch hunt," Sheffield told USA Today. "They don't want us to talk to them. This is all about getting [Bonds].

"If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They're just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn't make any sense and throw the [expletive] against the wall."

However, later Tuesday Sheffield backtracked from those comments, telling SI.com that "I'll let the Players Association make the call whether I should."

"I've always been more than willing [to talk]," Sheffield told SI.com. "I'm not saying they're going to get much out of me, 'cause I don't know nothing."

Bonds' lawyer, Michael Rains, said that his client cannot cooperate as long as he remains the focus of a possible perjury indictment.

Rains told ESPN.com's Mike Fish that he contacted Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, to see if Bonds is still the subject of a federal investigation after former track and field coach Trevor Graham was indicted in the BALCO case.

"I told them that I would like to have Barry give an interview to Mitchell and his people, but I am not going to do it, Mr. Ryan, unless you tell me you're done with it. And if you won't even tell me one way or the other, then you leave me no alternative," Rains told ESPN.com.

Rains said he had hoped the Graham indictment was the last of the BALCO case, but Ryan replied in a letter: "We can't confirm or deny that we are conducting any proceedings related to Mr. Bonds."

Union boss Donald Fehr said Monday that the players' association will offer advice but said it's the choice of each individual whether to cooperate with Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

"We haven't made any comment about the Mitchell investigation specifically," Fehr said. "What you should expect, however, is that any time any player has an issue with that or something arises, then we will give them whatever our best advice is under the circumstances, and then players make their individual decisions."

Mitchell, hired by commissioner Bud Selig just before the start of the 2006 season, warned team owners in January that a lack of cooperation with his investigation into steroid use will "significantly increase" the chances of government involvement.

Fehr, starting his annual spring training tour by meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks, said Mitchell's comments were unnecessary and that important individual rights are involved.

"I don't think there's anything productive for us to engage in a war," Fehr said. "We spend a lot of time in this country lately with lawyers trying to get public relations advantage on things. I'm not sure that when you're dealing with rights which may be in some sense fairly technical and legal that you ought to be doing that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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