Though they’ve admitted to removing the word “steroids” from Jason Giambi’s contract, the Yankees are still insisting they weren’t giving the slovenly slugger license to shoot up. The New York Times’ Murray Chass, hardly Brian Cashman’s favorite guy these days, begs to differ.

The Yankees don’t seem to get it, so let’s make one more attempt to explain their mistake or oversight with Jason Giambi.

In December 2001, when Giambi’s agent was negotiating a $120 million contract, he received a draft of the guarantee-exclusion language in the document. That’s the paragraph that lists activities that are no-no’s.

Not that a player is barred from engaging in those activities, but if he cannot play as a result of engaging in one of those activities – whether it’s sky diving, playing basketball, using drugs or any other listed endeavor – he can either lose his contract or have it converted from being guaranteed to being nonguaranteed.

In their first draft of that portion of the contract, the Yankees included a reference to steroid use. Arn Tellem, the agent, asked that all references to steroids be removed. The Yankees, eager to sign the player who two seasons earlier had been the American League’s most valuable player, dutifully acquiesced.

Flash forward three years, and the Yankees say they had no knowledge that Giambi (above) was using steroids at the time. Maybe they didn’t. But they didn’t have to know if he was using. What they had to do, on the other hand, was be suspicious once Tellem asked that the offensive word be removed and react to the red flag that his request should have raised.

The Yankees, in their attempt to spin the steroids issue from a negative to a positive, said they were not unhappy that Tellem asked for the references to be struck because it enabled them to use stronger, more protective language in the contract.

What nonsense. Do they really expect anyone to fall for that reasoning? One would do so only if one were as naïve or as blind as the Yankees were when they didn’t ask questions about the request.

But that’s beside the point. The issue here isn’t about the Yankees protecting themselves and George Steinbrenner’s money. That element would come into play only if Giambi were unable to perform because of steroid use. Instead of figuring out how to protect themselves, the Yankees should have dealt with eliminating that threat before they agreed to a steroid-free contract.

Instead of focusing on their self-protection, why didn’t the Yankees investigate why Giambi didn’t want steroids mentioned in his contract?

If nothing else, ask the question: “Jason, your request raises questions in our minds. If you want no references to steroids in your contract, does that mean you use or are thinking of using steroids? If so, we’d like to know because even though the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t prohibit steroids, we are the Yankees and we play clean. We’d like your home runs and your runs batted in, but not if they are chemically produced.”

But the Yankees didn’t ask the question; they didn’t challenge the object of their desire on the subject of steroids. They want us to believe their oversight was completely innocent, or worse, unimportant.

Besides trying to spin their oversight to their advantage, the Yankees have also been less than forthcoming in their reaction to the suggestion that they omitted references to steroids at Giambi’s request.

In one breath, General Manager Brian Cashman called the report inaccurate and hogwash. In the next breath, Lonn Trost, the chief operating officer, acknowledged that the Yankees indeed had done the deed.

The Yankees can’t even get on the same page. When they were signing Giambi, maybe they were missing the page that would have prompted them to ask him the question.