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Congressman defends subpoenas, warns MLB

WASHINGTON—Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said he'd hold any of seven baseball players in contempt of Congress should they fail to appear for March 17 congressional committee hearings where they've been subpoenaed to testify about steroid use.

Davis, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, also reacted sharply to plans by Major League Baseball to fight the subpoenas, likening league officials and players to former Enron head Ken Lay, who balked at congressional investigations into his company's financial collapse.

The committee on Wednesday subpoenaed some of the biggest names in baseball, including sluggers Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi and Jose Canseco, whose recent book "Juiced" alleges rampant steroid use by players over the past 20 years.

But Davis baffled many by not issuing a subpoena to Barry Bonds, the single-season home run record-holder who's at the center of the controversy. He said he didn't summon the San Francisco Giants outfielder because he feared that would turn his hearing into "a Bonds show." He also said that Bonds' congressional testimony could affect a federal grand jury investigation of steroids produced by a San Francisco Bay area laboratory and noted that Bonds wasn't implicated in Canseco's book, as several other players were.

"The hearing's not about Barry Bonds," Davis said. "It's about steroid-use policy, and I'm afraid if Bonds gets here it's going to be a hearing about Barry Bonds. We're not interested in witch-hunting ... we're interested in getting to the bottom of this."

Bonds might be called to a future hearing, Davis said.

Baseball officials have vowed to challenge the subpoenas, charging that Davis's committee has no authority to investigate the issue. But in a four-page letter Thursday to Major League Baseball, Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee's top Democrat, cited a provision in the rules of the House of Representatives that gives the committee the authority "to conduct investigations of any matter" at "any time."

Canseco has agreed to testify. The committee also subpoenaed three baseball officials, including commissioner Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Commissioner's office attorney Stanley Brand said in a letter to Davis and Waxman that the league would fight the subpoenas for all the players except Canseco, as well as those for documents related to baseball's steroid-testing program.

Fehr will testify next week, along with Robert Manfred, baseball's vice president for labor relations, who's offered to appear on Selig's behalf, Brand wrote.

Davis vowed to pursue contempt of Congress charges against anyone who doesn't show up.

"There are a lot of these people, they make millions of dollars, they don't intermix with the public, they don't understand what the world is like. There is a series of laws. It's like Ken Lay saying, `You don't need to investigate me. There's already an investigation going on. My company's investigating me,'" Davis said.

"That's not the way this business works," he continued. "Whether it's the president of the United States or whether it's a Major League Baseball player, everybody's subject to the law in this case, and some of these people may not understand this. But I think they will by the time we're through."

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Barry Bonds

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