NEW YORK -- It's been a painful season on and off the field for Gary Sheffield. The Yankees outfielder played through bursitis that twice required cortisone shots and forced him to catch fly balls hip-high, a torn ligament in his right thumb that has bothered him since spring training, and nearly a year of controversy about his appearance before a federal grand jury investigating illegal distribution of steroids.
And now details of that court appearance have emerged just as the Yankees are beginning postseason play. Sports Illustrated reported in this week's issue that Sheffield admitted using a cream supplied by BALCO on his surgically repaired right knee in 2002, though he was not told it was a testosterone-based steroid.
According to the magazine, Sheffield, who says he was introduced to BALCO by Barry Bonds -- someone he now describes as a former friend -- was under the impression the cream was cortisone-based, and was shocked when news broke that "the cream" and "the clear," another balm supplied by the company, were designer steroids.
"That's why I was mad," he says. "I want everybody to be on an even playing field."
Major League Baseball said Sheffield will not be penalized by the commissioner's office.
Under the terms of baseball's labor contract, players were each tested once for steroids this season. A provision allows more frequent testing if a joint management-labor panel of physicians finds "reasonable cause."
"There is a reasonable-cause provision in the Basic Agreement, but it is limited to activity within the last 12 months. Obviously, this activity was before the 12-month window," Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, said at Yankee Stadium before last night's AL Division Series opener between New York and Minnesota.
"The more important issue is, `What are people doing today?' " Manfred said. "That's why we have a testing program and we have good information on all major league players as a result of the testing program."
Bob Holley, the lawyer for BALCO president Victor Conte, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press yesterday that "BALCO provided Gary Sheffield with no illegal substances and the check BALCO received from Sheffield was for legal nutritional supplements."
This season, Sheffield batted .290 with 36 homers and led the team in RBIs with 121.