Baseball Vows To Fight Subpoenas

St. Louis Cardinals Mark McGwire takes off his batting gloves after striking out during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Sunday, Aug. 9, 1998.
A lawyer for the commissioner's office says major league baseball will fight the subpoenas of players called to testify before a congressional committee examining the league's steroids policy.

Seven current and former baseball stars — including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi — have been subpoenaed.

They're being told to appear at a March 17th hearing that will examine baseball's steroids policy. The other four players are Jose Canseco, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas.

Also slated to appear are the head of the players' association — Donald Fehr — and baseball executives Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson. The general manager of the San Diego Padres, Kevin Towers, was also named.

The lawmakers are promising a "thorough, fair, and responsible" investigation into what they call "baseball's steroid scandal." They say they want to know what baseball is doing to control steroid use.

Canseco had agreed to testify — as did Fehr and Manfred. But the committee's top Democrat and Republican said the others said they had no intention of appearing, so they were subpoenaed.

"The remaining witnesses, however, made it clear — either by flatly rejecting the invitation to testify or by ignoring our repeated attempts to contact them — they had no intention of appearing before the committee," committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat, said in a statement.

CBS News Analyst Andrew Cohen said the subpoenaed players have several possible options:

  • They could challenge the subpoenas and then perhaps be held in contempt of Congress.
  • They could testify but refuse to answer certain questions under 5th Amendment unless given immunity.
  • They could testify fully and perhaps run the risk of ruining their professional reputations.

    "Since steroid use is not illegal, you would think that these athletes and baseball executives would have no problem testifying. But there is a huge public relations issue for baseball in all of this,'' notes Cohen, "and these stars have to go back into play after their testimony. So they are really caught in a tough spot."

    Canseco has written a much-talked-about book that purports to tell the truth about his own use of anabolic steroids. In an interview with "60 Minutes", he admitted to using them for most of his career and said that "a lot of other players" did as well.

    Lawyers for the baseball commissioner's office and players' association attempted to negotiate a joint response to the committee, which last week invited the players and several officials to appear at the March 17 hearing.

    Giambi testified before a federal grand jury investigating steroids in 2003 and according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle in December, told the panel he had used steroids. Giambi has not denied the report but has refused to publicly discuss steroids, citing advice from his lawyers.

    Giambi was granted limited immunity by prosecutors for his grand jury testimony. Because of the ongoing investigation, it is possible the Justice Department, the committee and Giambi might have to negotiate an immunity agreement before he would answer questions from the congressional panel.

    If he is granted immunity and testifies publicly, the New York Yankees potentially could use any admissions as grounds to attempt to void his contract, which has four years and $82 million remaining.

    Also Tuesday, the parents of two amateur players who committed suicide were added as witnesses.

    Taylor Hooton, a cousin of former major leaguer Burt Hooton, was 17 when he hanged himself on July 15, 2003, and his parents think the suicide was due to depression that followed Taylor's end of steroid use. Rob Garibaldi, who played for the University of Southern California, was 24 when he shot himself on Oct. 1, 2002, and his parents also think his death was related to steroids.

    "I believe it is important for the committee to hear from medical experts and impacted families on the scope of the steroid problem nationwide," Davis said.

    Three medical experts also were added: Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Kirk Brower of the University of Michigan Medical School.

    "These witnesses have voluntarily agreed to share their expertise and experiences with the Committee, and I hope the players and league officials will follow suit," said Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the committee.