Yankees' Giambi admitted using steroids

Former MVP's 2003 testimony in BALCO labs case revealed

December 03, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi became the new face of baseball's steroid scandal yesterday, when a published report revealed his admission, in grand jury testimony, that he took steroids provided by the personal trainer of San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds.

Giambi, 33, had publicly denied using steroids, but the San Francisco Chronicle obtained his testimony in the federal inquiry in the BALCO labs case from December 2003, in which he describes using a syringe to inject human growth hormone into his stomach and testosterone into his buttocks.

For baseball, the report marked another turn in a scandal that has been percolating since 2002, when former Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti revealed his steroid use. More revelations are expected tonight, when Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, is interviewed on ABC's 20/20.

"There's been so much attention paid to the steroid issue that, in one respect, it's sad when it becomes a reality," said Orioles Vice President Mike Flanagan. "But I think it's a reality that, obviously, Major League Baseball has to look at."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig repeated his call for a stricter drug-testing policy yesterday. He and major league owners have met stiff resistance from the players union.

The sides agreed to drug testing in their 2002 labor agreement, but critics have denounced that policy as too tame.

"This [Giambi report] once again demonstrates the need to implement a tougher and more effective major league drug-testing program," Selig said. "I will leave no stone unturned in accomplishing our goal of zero tolerance by the start of spring training and am confident we will achieve this goal."

Selig is pushing to implement a drug-testing policy similar to the one baseball adopted for minor league players in 2001. Under current major league policy, teams are tested once a year during the season. Theoretically, players could use steroids all winter, so long as they are flushed out by Opening Day.

Baseball's minor league policy involves more frequent testing and harsher punishments. The Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment yesterday. But Selig has said it will take stricter testing to remove the cloud of suspicion hanging over players.

"I can't say that all of them will be painted with the same brush, but I think there's a great deal of fan skepticism that some of the major players in the game haven't been using steroids already," said Howe Burch, president of Twelve Sports Marketing & Communications. "And I think the fact that Jason initially denied having used steroids, then you learn that, in fact, he had, will only make their skepticism greater."

Beyond what the Giambi report did to his image, it also added to the mounting suspicion of steroid use surrounding Bonds, who has a chance to break baseball's all-time home run record next year.

Bonds, Giambi and Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield -- players who have combined for 26 all-star selections -- have been at the center of this story for the past year, along with Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson.

"If Bonds was doing steroids, then that's bad for baseball, and baseball will have a huge black eye that it's going to have to work out of," said Robert Tuchman, president of New York-based TSE Sports and Entertainment. "Something like this is definitely going to wake a lot of people up. There's going to be a lot of people who are going to look at it and say, `Wait a minute. There was cheating here. It's just improper. Baseball is America's game.'"

Caminiti, the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player who died in October of a drug overdose, admitted steroid use in a 2002 interview with Sports Illustrated. He said he thought more than 50 percent of the players used steroids.

Later that year, former Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco suggested that the number was even higher, though several players called those estimates exaggerations.

According to a partial transcript of his 20/20 interview, Conte says: "I would guesstimate that more than 50 percent of the athletes are taking some form of anabolic steroids. ... My guess is more than 80 percent are taking some sort of a stimulant before each and every game."

Suspicions started running high in the late 1990s, when home run totals began soaring. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, shattering the single-season record of 61, while using a performance-enhancing supplement called androstenedione. That substance has since been banned.

Bonds broke McGwire's record in 2001, when he hit 73 home runs, drawing notice to how much bulk he had added to his upper body since the early days of his career. But until this Giambi revelation, no current player had admitted knowingly using steroids.

In October, Sheffield told Sports Illustrated and ESPN that he used steroids called "the cream" and "the clear" obtained from BALCO, but said he did not know they contained steroids.

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