Baseball officials request meeting with House committee for Monday

League gathers records, wants to discuss hearing

Baseball

March 12, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Major League Baseball has requested a meeting for Monday with a congressional committee that has subpoenaed ballplayers to testify at a hearing next week on steroid use in the sport, according to committee and baseball aides.

The requested meeting is a sign that baseball and the House Committee on Government Reform - which have been publicly feuding - are privately trying to reach an agreement about the scope of Thursday's hearing, who will appear and what questions they will be asked.

In addition to seeking the meeting - in the planning stages yesterday - baseball was also gathering documents, as requested by one of the subpoenas.

The subpoena, delivered to baseball's New York offices this week, seeks copies of baseball's drug-testing policies from the past and present and results of steroid tests without the players' names attached.

The deadline for producing the documents is Monday at noon. Baseball had protested the records request on Tuesday, calling it "overly expansive." Baseball officials also objected to the idea of the hearing in general, saying the committee lacked the authority to force players to testify about steroids and was merely trying to embarrass them.

Despite their protests, baseball officials were nonetheless trying to supply the requested records.

"We talked to the [committee] staff and we said there are categories of things we can produce without a problem," said Stanley Brand, an attorney for baseball and its players association.

But Brand said more discussions with the committee were needed.

"I'm not turning over anything until we have some understanding of what the rest of the hearing is going to look like. There's got to be a global resolution," he said.

The subpoenaed players are Orioles Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, retired former home run king Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox and retired slugger Jose Canseco.

The committee says the hearing is needed to resolve questions about baseball's steroid use that threaten the game's integrity and send a potentially dangerous message to kids.

Committee spokesman Robert White said the panel expected all the summoned players to show up. "We really aren't making any distinction between those who have confirmed their appearance and those who haven't yet. We expect all of them to be there," White said in an e-mailed response to a reporter's question.

In other developments yesterday related to the hearing:

Schilling said he planned to attend, but didn't understand the purpose, according to the Associated Press.

Asked why Schilling was invited, the committee said the World Series star offered an interesting perspective.

Congressional committees, in the interest of appearing fair, almost always invite a variety of witnesses. That way, the members aren't simply hearing the same message repeated by different witnesses.

"You're trying to get different points of view so members can [hear] different perspectives," said Karen Lightfoot, the committee's Democratic spokeswoman.

Unlike some of the other subpoenaed players, Schilling has not been accused of steroid use. Rather, he has been an advocate - who has drawn praise from Sen. John McCain and others - for ending steroid use that can give some players an unfair advantage over others.

Canseco's lawyer was still trying to work out an immunity deal with the committee. Without immunity from prosecution, he will show up but might not answer certain questions.

"If we don't get immunity, what we say and how we answer it might be taken on a question-by-question basis," said attorney Robert Saunooke.

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