Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Baltimore Oriole teammates Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro both testified Thursday before the House Government Reform Committee, and said they have never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and Chicago White Sox designated hitter Frank Thomas, both outspoken on steroid use, also testified and were named to co-chair an advisory committee to battle the use of steroids.
Mark McGwire, who was a teammate of Jose Canseco's in Oakland for seven years (1986-92), quivered and refused to indicate whether he used steroids in the past.
Last month brought the official release of Canseco's 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 Jason Giambi, McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez -- of also using steroids.
McGwire, Palmeiro and Schilling were visibly upset that Canseco's book brought names to the forefront.
"To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs," Sosa said in a prepared statement through his representative. "I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything. I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004 and I am clean."
Palmeiro said he was clean, and had a few choice words for Canseco.
"I have never used steroids, period," Palmeiro said. "I do not know how to say it more clearly than that. Never. The reference to me in Mr. Canseco's book is absolutely false. I am against the use of steroids. I don't think athletes should use steroids and I don't think our kids should use them. The point of view is one unfortunately that is not shared by our former colleague, Mr. Canseco. Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes."
In Canseco's book, he claimed he and McGwire injected steroids together in the bathroom stalls at Oakland Coliseum. Under oath on Thursday, Canseco admitted to using steroids, but didn't come forward with names of other players sitting a few feet away from him.
"It should be enough that you consider the source of the statements in the book," McGwire said. "Many inconsistencies and contradictions have already been raised.
"I have been advised of my testimony here can be used to harm friends and respected teammates. Asking me or any other player who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers 'no' he simply will not be believed. If he answers 'yes', he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. My lawyers have advised me I can not answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself. I intend to follow their advice."
McGwire did just that. Although McGwire said he was willing to become a national spokesman against steroids, he said on a number of occasions, "I'm not here to talk about the past." When asked if he thought taking steroids was cheating, McGwire answered, "that's not for me to determine." Although McGwire admitted that steroids were "bad" and "wrong," when he was asked to expound on how he knew that, he refused to answer under advice of his legal counsel.
The committee denied Canseco and all other witnesses immunity for Thursday's hearing. Because of this Canseco said he was unable to answer detailed questions in fear of being incriminated.
Thomas gave his opening statement via video conference call due to an injured ankle that swells up when in an airplane.
All of the players were subpoenaed to appear before the committee. Union head Donald Fehr, MLB executive VPs Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson also appeared, along with commissioner Bud Selig.
Earlier in the day, lawmakers lashed out at Major League Baseball's revamped steroids 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 committee chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), the committee's ranking minority member, noted it to be "still in draft form." According to the policy, 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.
Manfred said despite what is on the policy regarding the fines, there would be suspensions for any player who tests positive.
"We have informed the Major League Baseball Players Association that the commissioner intends to and will suspend across the board for all violations," Manfred said. "The owners ratified the agreement with that understanding. It is also my understanding that Mr. Fehr's constituents are in the process of ratifying based on that same understanding."
Under the new agreement, every player will undergo at least one unannounced test on a randomly selected date during the playing season. There is no specific limit on the number of tests to which any player may randomly be subjected, and it includes random testing during the off-season.
According to Selig, the positive rate for performance enhancing substances in the 2003 testing was in the range of 5-7 percent. Under the more rigorous testing program in 2004, there was a decline of the positive rate to 1-2 percent.
"Baseball's policy on performance enhancing substances is as good as any in professional sports," Selig said. "Notwithstanding the quality of our new policy, Baseball will not rest and will continue to be vigilant on the issue of performance enhancing substances as we move toward my stated goal of zero tolerance."
Another criticism by lawmakers in the policy was that regarding human growth hormone, which Giambi reportedly was using during 2003, there is no good test for it, even though MLB has it on its scheduled list of banned steroids.
"The committee's criticisms of our position on human growth hormone is also unfair," Manfred testified. "Our experts, including the director of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) certified lab in Montreal has informed us that there is no verifiable test, blood or urine, for human growth hormone. We are actively involved with efforts to accelerate the development of a urine test."
Alderson has been employed in baseball for almost 24 years, 17 of them with Oakland. He was general manager of the Athletics from 1984-97 and during that time Canseco was a teammate of McGwire's in Oakland.
"During my time in Oakland, I never saw any player use steroids," Alderson said. "I never saw any steroids or steroid paraphernalia. Steroid suspicion was not a consideration of mine in trading Jose Canseco in 1992, in trading for him in 1997 or in not re-signing him for 1998. I never suspected Mark McGwire or Jason Giambi of using steroids during my tenure in Oakland."
In light of Thursday's hearing, Canseco said it would be a major mistake to have the league police itself and was in favor of federal legislation being enacted to curb steroid use.
"It'll just be a joke," Canseco said. "It'll be this all over again."