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Selig wants Giambi to cooperate with Mitchell

Yankees' first baseman could face 50-game suspension for steroid use, but union executive says there are no grounds for penalty.

June 07, 2007|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi could face a 50-game suspension if he refuses to cooperate with baseball's steroid investigation, a punishment that could trigger a confrontation between Commissioner Bud Selig and the players' union.

Selig indicated Wednesday that he considered Giambi's recent remark to USA Today -- "I was wrong for doing that stuff," he said -- an admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs. Selig ordered Giambi to meet with Sen. George Mitchell, the chairman of baseball's steroid investigation, within two weeks and said he would defer imposing discipline until then.

"Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously," Selig said in a statement.

It is not immediately clear whether Giambi would meet with Mitchell or, if he does, whether he would offer any useful information. Arn Tellem, Giambi's agent, did not immediately return a call.

Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, said in a statement Selig has no grounds for discipline "based on the newspaper article, anything which sprang from it, or his decision whether he will meet with Senator Mitchell."

In 2003, Giambi told a federal grand jury he had used steroids and human growth hormone, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Giambi subsequently apologized at a news conference, without saying what he was apologizing for.

Baseball did not test for steroids until 2003 and did not impose suspensions for a first positive test until 2005. Players can be suspended in the absence of a positive test upon proof of use. Pitcher Jason Grimsley was suspended for 50 games last year after admitting he used performance-enhancing substances, although he immediately retired.

The union would file a grievance immediately upon any suspension of Giambi, a source familiar with the case said Wednesday, on the grounds that the USA Today remark is not an admission of use and that in any case baseball officials could not prove that Giambi used steroids after suspensions were imposed for players testing positive.

If the suspension is overturned by an arbitrator, the source said, Selig could say he had acted in what he believed were the best interests of the game. However, a second source said, Selig is not acting solely to quell the furor surrounding Giambi's comments and believes he can make a strong case for an arbitrator to sustain a possible suspension.

Selig appointed Mitchell 15 months ago to conduct an inquiry into how steroids infected baseball, but players have declined to meet with his investigators, who cannot compel anyone to speak with them. Selig did not explicitly say he would waive discipline if Giambi would speak to Mitchell, but he appeared to extend that olive branch to Giambi and other players who might be interested in talking.

"Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation," Selig said.

Any suspension could linger into next season, with Giambi on the disabled list and questionable for the rest of this season because of a torn tendon in his left foot.

Giambi is in the sixth year of a seven-year, $120-million contract.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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