NEW YORK -- Rafael Palmeiro jabbed his finger in the air for
emphasis and raised voice with all the indignation of a man falsely
"I have never used steroids. Period," he told a congressional
panel in March.
On Monday, nearly five months later, the Baltimore Orioles
slugger became baseball's highest-profile player to be suspended 10
days for using steroids.
While he didn't deny testing positive for the drugs, he insisted
that ingesting them was an accident.
"When I testified in front of Congress, I know that I was
testifying under oath and I told the truth," he said during a
telephone conference call Monday. "Today I am telling the truth
again that I did not do this intentionally or knowingly."
The 40-year-old Palmeiro became the seventh player to fail a
test under the toughened major league policy that took effect in
March, rules criticized by Congress as not being stringent enough.
On July 15, Palmeiro joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie
Murray as the only players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Baseball
would not say when the positive test occurred.
Without giving specifics, the four-time All-Star left the
impression that the banned substance was contained in a supplement
that was not prescribed. He said it was an "embarrassing
situation" and still did not know what caused the positive test.
"Why would I do this in a year when I went in front of Congress
and I testified and I told the truth?" he said. "Why would I do
this during a season where I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It
just makes no sense. I'm not a crazy person."
Palmeiro, who is currently in 9th place on the all-time home
runs list with 569, wouldn't predict whether his chances of being
elected to the Hall of Fame were damaged.
"Really, that's not for me to determine," he said. "I hope
that people look at my whole career and appreciate that I've given
everything that I've got. I respect the Hall of Fame, and if
they think that I'm worthy enough, I would be very honored. And if
they don't, I gave it all that I had to this game."
Appearing with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and other baseball stars
before a congressional committee on March 17, Palmeiro made an
opening statement in which he said, pointing his finger for
emphasis: "Let me start by telling you this: I have never used
steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than
Palmeiro also expressed indignation over accusations made by
former slugger Jose Canseco, who cited Palmeiro as a steroid user
in his tell-all book. In an interview on the CBS television show
"60 Minutes," Canseco -- who also testified before Congress -- said
he had injected Palmeiro with steroids.
Canseco told CNBC on Monday that while he accused Palmeiro of
prior use, "I do not believe right now or recently Rafael Palmeiro
has taken steroids."
"There could be a metabolite from the past," Canseco said.
"No one really knows how long steroids last in your actual
Besides condemning steroid use during his appearance before
Congress, Palmeiro also took part via conference call in a
round-table discussion last month about how to rid sports of
steroids with members of Congress and representatives from the NFL,
NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Christopher Shays of Connecticut, the No. 2 Republican on the
committee that investigated steroids in baseball, said in a
telephone interview: "He ended up being the most outspoken against
steroid use and even this guy is in a situation where he's been
suspended. It just blows me away. Obviously, it calls into question
every accomplishment he's had."
It wasn't clear whether Palmeiro's test was taken before or
after he spoke before the congressional panel. Anyone who lies
under oath could be potentially subject to criminal perjury
charges; Congress has the option of referring the case to the
Justice Department, which would decide whether it's worth pursuing.
Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., who led the steroids inquiry, was traveling out of the country Monday and couldn't be reached for comment, spokesman Rob White said.
"If true, this is disheartening news for those of us who believed Mr. Palmeiro was a key ally in our effort to rid sports of performance enhancing drugs," White said.
Under baseball's drug policy, every player is tested at least
once between the start of spring training and the end of the
regular season. Some players are randomly selected by a computer
for additional tests. All tests are unannounced.
Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said his players were ``a little
disappointed'' but wanted to support their teammate, who began
serving his suspension Monday as the Orioles lost 6-3 to the White
Sox. Palmeiro would be eligible to return for an Aug. 11 home game
against Tampa Bay.
"The timing obviously is not good," said Mazzilli, whose team
has been steadily slipping out of the playoff picture, having lost
12 of the last 13 games. "We're going to have to make do right
now. We're going to have to band together as a team and fight
The players' association challenged the positive test in secret
proceedings, and the penalty was held in abeyance until arbitrator
Shyam Das decided Monday not to overturn it.
Palmeiro will lose $163,934 of his $3 million salary during the
suspension. Because the penalty was delayed, it meant at least one
member of baseball's management-union medical panel initially found
there was a "reasonable basis" for the challenge.
The arbitration panel headed by Das, in a statement released by
the union, said Palmeiro could not prove the positive test "was
not due to his fault or negligence." It also concluded, however,
that Palmeiro's testimony was "quite compelling," and it did not
find reason to believe he was lying.
President Bush -- who owned the Texas Rangers while Palmeiro
played for the team -- called Palmeiro a "friend" in a round-table interview with reporters from several Texas newspapers. "He's testified in public, and I believe him," Bush added.
"I am surprised, disappointed and saddened by this news," said Henry Waxman, the Government Reform Committee's ranking Democrat. "The positive test raises many questions for Mr. Palmeiro and baseball."
Palmeiro sounded contrite on the conference call, saying he
hoped there was something to be gained from his suspension by
educating players to be more careful about what they put in their
"I made a mistake and I'm facing it," he said. "I hope that
people learn from my mistake and I hope that the fans forgive me."
Union head Donald Fehr said the suspension "should serve to
dispel doubts about our determination to rid baseball of illegal
steroids, or the strength or effectiveness of our testing
Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said his players were "a little
disappointed" but wanted to support their teammate.
"The timing obviously is not good," said Mazzilli, whose team
has lost 12 of the last 13 games. "We're going to have to make do
right now. We're going to have to band together as a team and fight