Congress, MLB Fight Over Subpoenas

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Government Reform Committee threw nothing but high heat at Major League Baseball (search) Thursday, unfazed by MLB lawyers' attempts to prevent players from testifying on Capitol Hill next week.

The big leagues are resisting congressional subpoenas for some of its marquee stars to testify about their knowledge of and experience with steroid use. Stanley Brand attacked lawmakers in a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and ranking Democratic Henry Waxman of California saying they asked the stars to appear only to "satisfy their prurient interest into who may and may not have engaged" in steroid use.

MLB contends Congress has no jurisdiction over steroid use. They also want congressional members to back off because it has a new tougher steroid-testing policy, one created less than two months ago under pressure from Congress and in the shadow of a grand jury investigation into an alleged steroid-distribution ring.

The agreement will suspend first-time offenders for 10 days and randomly test players year-round. Testing began at spring training last week.

In a response letter, Davis and Waxman wrote Brand that "your legal analysis is flawed and any failure to comply with the committee's subpoenas would be unwise and irresponsible."

Committee spokesman David Marin added: "Mr. Brand has his facts wrong. He failed to recognize that House rules give this committee the authority to investigate any matter at any time, and we are authorized to request or compel testimony and document production related to any investigation. It's a shame that Major League Baseball has resorted to hiding behind 'legalese' — and inaccurate 'legalese' at that."

As for the new baseball steroid-testing policy recently announced, Davis and Waxman wrote, "Baseball has had a series of steroid policies in effect since at least 1991. Understanding how baseball has implemented -- or failed to implement -- those policies is relevant to an evaluation of how effectively the new policy may be applied."

Among those subpoenaed for the hearing scheduled March 17 are Baltimore Orioles outfielder Sammy Sosa (search), one of the major league's best-known homerun hitters, and New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi (search), who reportedly admitted to a grand jury that he used steroids.

Others subpoenaed include former players Mark McGwire (search), who broke Roger Maris' single season homerun record with 70 round-trippers in 1998, Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling (search), Baltimore Orioles first baseman Raphael Palmiero (search) and Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas (search). Jose Canseco (search), a former major leaguer whose recent book on steroids implicates all these players and others in steroid use, has agreed to testify.

Also called were players' association head Donald Fehr, baseball executive vice presidents Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson, and San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers. Fehr and Manfred have agreed to testify, with Manfred appearing on behalf of commissioner Bud Selig.

MLB has indicated that it does not want Congress to learn who has tested positive for steroids despite promises by Congress not to divulge the names of any players who have tested positive.

If the subpoenaed players defy the order to testify they risk being found in contempt of Congress. If a court enforces the contempt citation, they could face jail time. Source told FOX News that Davis and Waxman are prepared to grant limited immunity to players who seek to avoid prosecution.

One big name not on the subpoena list was perennial National League MVP Barry Bonds (search), who perhaps at the center of the steroids controversy, could suck all the air out of the hearing room.

Bonds' name did come up elsewhere on Capitol Hill Thursday. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Joe Barton, R-Texas, said the San Francisco Giant has been tainted by suggestions that his pursuit of the career home run record has been aided by steroids.

"With Babe Ruth (search), people didn't worry about him taking steroids. They worried him eating another hot dog," Barton said.

Barton added that at some point subpoenas might be issued for commissioners of the major sports leagues to appear at future hearings to discuss an inter-league drug-testing policy. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Thursday reviewed whether all U.S. sports leagues should develop a single drug-testing plan.

"Our elite athletic organizations, both professional and amateur, should establish uniform, world-class, drug-testing (search) standards that are as consistent and robust as our criminal laws in this area," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. "Nothing less should be tolerated."

"The time has come to put an end to this mess and reclaim sports as competition," Barton added.

FOX News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.