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Witnesses denied immunity; Congress questions teeth of policy

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Witnesses denied immunity; Congress questions teeth of policy

Postby WebHamster » Wed Mar 16, 2005 6:00 pm

Washington, DC (Sports Network) - When Jose Canseco takes the witness stand on Thursday before the House Government Reform Committee, he's not expected to go into detail about his own steroid use during his career or give information that would incriminate other players or executives associated with Major League Baseball.

The committee denied Canseco and all other witnesses immunity for Thursday's hearing, according to David Marin, a spokesman for committee chairman Tom Davis.

A total of 11 subpoenas were issued last week. Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas and Rafael Palmeiro are the other current players who have been called upon, while Canseco and Mark McGwire were the former players subpoenaed. All of the players are expected to attend the hearing.

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi was excused from appearing at the hearing because the committee didn't want to hinder an ongoing federal investigation stemming from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal.

Union head Donald Fehr, MLB executive VPs Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson were also called to testify, along with San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers. Commissioner Bud Selig announced on Monday he would testify as well.

The hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. (et), is entitled, "Restoring Faith in America's Pastime: Evaluating Major League Baseball's efforts to Eradicate Steroid Use."

Because of the decision for no immunity, Canseco will invoke his fifth amendment rights and will not answer questions before the committee that would incriminate him.

"Those could expose him to criminal liability and we're just not going to risk that," said Robert Saunooke, Canseco's lawyer. "No one else asked for immunity except for us, and we are the only people who have had criminal prosecutions and whose credibility has been questioned."

Last month brought the official release of his book entitled, "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big." In it, Canseco, admits to using steroids during his career and accuses a number of ex- teammates -- notably Giambi, McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez -- of also using steroids.

In a prepared written statement, produced at the request of the committee, Canseco drove to the heart of the reason for his book and said "never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my athletic ability and love for America’s game would lead me to this place and the subject that has brought me before the Committee.

"Because of my truthful revelations I have had to endure attacks on my credibility. I have had to relive parts of my life that I thought had been long since buried and gone. All of these attacks have been spurred on by an organization that holds itself above the law. An organization that chose to exploit its players for the increased revenue that lines its pockets and then sacrifice those same players to protect the web of secrecy that was hidden for so many years. The time has come to end this secrecy and to confront those who refuse to acknowledge their role in encouraging the behavior we are gathered to discuss."

Davis and Henry Waxman, the committee's ranking minority member, issued a letter on Wednesday to Selig and Fehr, questioning the teeth of the new testing policy.

On January 13, MLB revealed it had reached an agreement on a new steroids testing program in which a first-time offender would be suspended for 10 days. Second- time offenders would face a 30-day suspension. Third-time offenders would be suspended for 60 days and fourth-time offenders would face a one-year penalty, and all suspensions would be without pay.

The policy was delivered on Monday to the Committee, but Davis and Waxman noted it to be "still in draft form." According to the policy, obtained by The Sports Network, there is a choice of either a suspension or a fine stepping up from a maximum of $10,000 for first-time offenders. That increases to a maximum of $25,000 for second-time offenders, $50,000 for a third penalty, and a maximum of $100,000 for a fourth-time offender.

"One hundred thousand dollars is less money than some players earn in one game," Davis and Waxman wrote.

In the letter from Davis and Waxman, they noted "there is no public identification of players who are fined instead of suspended; and that even if players are suspended, the public disclosure is limited to the fact of their suspension with no official confirmation that the player tested positive for steroids."

Davis and Waxman also observed a huge difference between baseball's testing policy and the Olympic one, where a first-time offender is banned for two years. "Unlike the Olympic policy, the Major League Baseball policy does not include tests for human growth hormone or amphetamines," the congressmen said in the letter.

Also there is an anti-oversight clause in the policy, which calls for it to be suspended immediately if there is an independent government investigation into drug use in baseball.

"We have serious questions about this provision," Davis and Waxman said. "By requiring the indefinite suspension of the testing program when government officials, including elected representatives, ask basic questions about drug use in baseball, this provision appears designed to discourage responsible independent oversight."

When comparing the scope of the Olympic policy and that of Major League Baseball's, Davis and Waxman said, "the Olympic policy appears comprehensive, strict, independent, and transparent. Major League Baseball's program appears to raise questions on all four counts."

President Bush, during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, commented about the hearing.

"It's not right," the President said about steroid use. "I appreciate the fact baseball is addressing this and I appreciate the fact Congress is paying attention to the issue. My hope is the system will work."
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