NEW YORK – Jose Canseco (search), Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire (search) and four other current and former players were subpoenaed Wednesday to testify before a congressional committee investigating steroids policy, a move the sport's leadership vowed to fight all the way to court.
Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa (search), Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas also were subpoenaed to appear at the March 17 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee along with players' association head Donald Fehr, baseball executive vice presidents Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson and San Diego general manager Kevin Towers.
Stanley Brand, a lawyer for the baseball commissioner's office, criticized the committee for "an absolutely excessive and unprecedented misuse of congressional power." He said the committee was interfering with the federal grand jury investigation in California into illegal distribution by subpoenaing Giambi, a grand jury witness who might have to testify at a trial.
"Not even the Iran-Contra committee attempted to do that," Brand said.
Brand and Manfred said baseball will attempt to fight the subpoenas. Brand said that to enforce the subpoenas over baseball's objections, the committee would have to vote to approve them along with the full House of Representatives, and a U.S. Attorney would have to certify them. If that happened, Brand said the fight over the subpoenas would head to U.S. District Court.
Canseco, Fehr and Manfred had agreed to testify. Manfred would speak on behalf of baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
"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.
Thomas said Monday he would testify, but the sport's formal response to the committee on Tuesday said he was declining the invitation.
"The committee will conduct a thorough, fair, and responsible investigation. It is important the American people know the facts on baseball's steroid scandal," Davis and Waxman said. "And it is important that all Americans, especially children, know about the dangers of drug use. Consistent with our committee's jurisdiction over the nation's drug policy, we need to better understand the steps MLB is taking to get a handle on the steroid issue, and whether news of those steps — and the public health danger posed by steroid use — is reaching America's youth."
Brand, a lawyer for the commissioner's office, wrote to the committee on Tuesday saying the hearing and what he termed "overly expansive" document requests "present significant constitutional and institutional concerns about the underlying validity and proprietary of the committee's inquiry.
"It is not clear to us how the committee's jurisdiction encompasses the privately negotiated drug policy," Brand wrote, adding that the committee was requesting "highly private and sensitive information."
"The right to the privacy of this information outweighs any asserted interest in the `health problems stemming from the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs,"' Brand wrote.
Brand said the committee request "goes to the unprecedented and, we must add, destructive length of seeking actual testing results [and] shows no consideration for the legitimate privacy concerns of MLB, the MLBPA, individual players and other members of the bargaining unit."
Another congressional hearing on steroids is scheduled for Thursday, when the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is to hear from witnesses, including labor lawyers from the commissioner's office and the NFL, and representatives of the NCAA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
"We're trying to get to the bottom of the steroid problem," Rep. Cliff Stearns said. "Are they being used in high school? Are they being used in college? Are they being used in professional sports? And what are we doing do stop this, because it is a felony. What is the baseball commissioner doing?"
Stearns, chairman of the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee, said Selig was invited to speak at the hearing but declined. Stearns said Davis' committee "cannot legislate; they're just an oversight committee."
"We can legislate," Stearns said. "We're trying to understand whether legislation is needed. We're obviously disappointed that Selig did not want to show."