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Yankees say ‘steroids’ not deleted from Giambi contract

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NEW YORK — Jason Giambi didn't say the word "steroids" during his press conference Thursday, and that word also does not appear in his contract with the Yankees. That doesn't mean the Yankees couldn't attempt to void Giambi's deal in the future, however, and that option remains a possibility.

A report in the New York Times on Friday said the Yankees willingly deleted the word "steroids" from Giambi's seven-year, $120 million contract in 2002 — implying that they knew about Giambi's habits and chose to ignore them — but team president Randy Levine said flatly, "The allegation is not correct."

Levine added, "I can say, unequivocally, that nobody — top to bottom — had any knowledge that Jason Giambi was using steroids."

According to several sources, the presence of the word "steroids" is actually almost irrelevant when it comes to determining whether the Yankees have ways to terminate Giambi's contract because there are a variety of general clauses under which steroid use would fall.

The language in Giambi's contract says the team may withhold salary from a player for the "use or abuse of any illegal substance, including but without limitation . . . " and then goes on to list a variety of examples. It also has a general "other chemical abuse or dependency" clause that gives the team latitude in definition, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement.

Additionally, the Yankees could make a strong case that Giambi misled them about his health. Giambi played only 80 games last season because of an intestinal parasite and a benign tumor that the New York Daily News reported was in his pituitary gland, and if he was using steroids but failed to inform his doctors and Yankee doctors, he could be in violation of his contract.

Specifically, Giambi's contract says that if a doctor determines he is not in "first-class physical condition" because of "chemical dependency, the club may in its sole discretion convert this contract to a non-guaranteed contract."

That's still a possibility for Giambi too, and if the Yanks examine that option in the future, it might not even be because of steroids. Giambi's off-the-field lifestyle has drawn criticism from inside the organization, and his reputed hard-partying ways could give the Yankees other avenues to explore.

As for the steroids, the biggest piece of current evidence is a December article in the San Francisco Chronicle that quoted Giambi's supposedly confidential grand jury testimony in the BALCO case in which he admits to using steroids for at least three seasons.

That is not concrete enough, however, which is one reason Giambi's apologies on Thursday never included any direct admissions of steroid use and why he was similarly evasive in a recent meeting with Levine, Yankees COO Lonn Trost and GM Brian Cashman. Despite avoiding several pointed questions, Giambi promised the executives that he would change his ways.

"He told us certain things, and he made it clear to us that he was going to alter his behavior," Levine said. "He was sorry for things that were done, he was going to change and on that basis the organization decided to give him a second chance."

The section in Giambi's contract that deals with drug abuse is almost a full page long and includes a variety of other activities — basketball, for example — for which a player could have his deal terminated. Aaron Boone's knee injury while playing hoops a year ago January is the most recent example of a situation in which the Yanks voided a deal after a player violated the agreement, and Trost said Friday there are numerous redundancies in the contracts to make sure the team's investments are protected.

"We're not going to do something which puts us in a position where we are not comfortable," Trost said.

Said Giambi's agent, Arn Tellem: "I'm not commenting on the specific terms of the contract. That is between Jason and the Yankees. Right now our focus is on the fact that Jason and the Yankees are united and moving forward and that Jason is returning to form and getting ready to help the Yankees return to the World Series."