Originally created 03/16/05

Giambi excused from testifying at hearing



NEW YORK - Jason Giambi was excused from testifying at Thursday's congressional hearing on steroids in baseball, and the top Democrat on the committee said it's possible other players also could have subpoenas withdrawn.

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. The New York Yankees slugger testified in 2003 before a grand jury probing the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

"I appeared in front of the federal grand jury a year ago. I answered every question, told the truth and cooperated fully," Giambi said in a statement released by his agent. "I appreciate that the members of the committee evaluated my situation, and I will now continue to focus on playing the best baseball I possibly can for the Yankees and our great fans."

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.

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 lawyer Stan Brand 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 Jose Canseco, whose recent book accuses several stars of steroid use, also was subpoenaed along with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas and Curt 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."

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 Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson also will testify, as will San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers and union head Donald Fehr.

Schilling said Tuesday he hoped to be excused but would comply with the subpoena if he had to.

"When you get subpoenaed, you don't have a choice," he said.

It remained unclear whether McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and Thomas would comply with their subpoenas. Marc Altieri, McGwire's spokesman, could not say whether his client will appear.

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.

Brand'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.

Brand 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 Brand'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 second letter from 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."

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AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich in Washington and Howard Ulman in Fort Myers, Fla., contributed to this report.