By Jeff Merron
Page 2

If you want to twist your brain into a pretzel, try understanding the Government Reform's Committee's "Report on Investigation Into Rafael Palmeiro's March 17, 2005 Testimony Before the Committee on Government Reform."

I tried, and I'm ready for my straitjacket. But since you're probably not, I'll start out with a summary of what, in the report, makes sense. Don't worry -- this part won't take long.

The committee can't tell if Palmeiro lied on March 17.
That's when the Orioles slugger said he had never, ever taken any illegal drugs. Because his positive drug test came seven weeks after March 17, and because, as the committee already knew, he had never tested positive before March 17, it couldn't conclude that he'd been lying on March 17.

It takes them many pages to explain this, which is just one of the minor miracles of modern bureaucracy.

The committee knows, for sure, that Palmeiro got liquid vitamin B-12 from Miguel Tejada, and that Lynne Palmeiro, his wife, injected him with the B-12.

Palmeiro insists that although it defies logic and a tsunami of evidence, the B-12 must have been the source of the stanozolol, the steroid which showed up in his positive drug test. This had been Palmeiro's original explanation. But the vial of B-12 which Palmeiro used has long since disappeared, so there's no way to know, for sure, if his explanation is true or false.

But some questions remain. I'll address them directly to the committee:

Does the report really require 457 footnotes?

That's 10 per page. It's been 40 years since you graduated, and you're still trying to impress your high school English teacher? Get over it.

Why is it important to repeat the fact that Palmeiro's bottle of B-12 had a Spanish label?

Tejada said he got the B-12 from the Dominican Republic, where it can be obtained, legally, over the counter. Palmeiro, born in Cuba, speaks fluent Spanish, so he could read the label. Millions of vials of liquid B-12 bearing Spanish labels must be produced each year, so it doesn't provide a real clue that it's from the same batch. Now, if the label were in Yiddish … that would have compelled us to turn the pages a little quicker.

We understand that Tejada also gave liquid B-12 to "Player A" and "Player B," and that they and Tejada gave differing accounts on how much they got, and when. Why should we care?

Tejada, Player A, and Player B, as far as we know, have never tested positive. All the bottles that Tejada still possessed were tested and found to be untainted. That there's a confusing timeline on B-12 seems … well, not relevant to whether Palmeiro lied before Congress.

You've just figured out that amphetamine use in Major League Baseball is, in all probability, widespread?

Didn't you listen to Rep. Henry Waxman's opening comments on March 17, when he stated that he (and Congress), concluded in the early 1970s that amphetamines were a problem?

Obviously you haven't read Jim Bouton's classic "Ball Four," published in 1970. It's a fun read, and you may find it interesting that greenies are mentioned at least a dozen times. A few samples:

"How fabulous are greenies? Some of the guys have to take one just to get their hearts to start beating."

"We've been running short of greenies. We don't get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams … or friends … One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox."

"At dinner, Don Mincher, Marty Pattin and I discussed greenies. They came up because O'Donoghue had just received a season supply of 500. 'That ought to last about a month,' I said."

"'Minch, how many major-league ballplayers do you think take greenies?' I asked. 'Half? More?' 'Hell, a lot more than half,' he said. 'Just about the whole Baltimore teams takes them. Most of the Tigers. Most of the guys on this club. And that's just what I know for sure.'"

You write, "After the 1994 MLB players strike, rumors and allegations of steroid use in the league began to surface."

Does the committee not have access to Nexis? Among the sources the committee cites for this information is an article written by Bob Nightengale in the July 15, 2995 edition of the L.A. Times. OK, we know you meant 1995, and we found the article, but why stop at after the 1994 strike?

Nightengale wrote, in the Aug. 19, 1991, edition of The Sporting News, "There is a widely held belief that amphetamines, or 'greenies,' are making a major comeback on the baseball scene, and that steroids also have one foot in the door."

In the 4,000-word story, headlined "No longer 'playing hurt; Free agency, rich contracts, 'softer' athletes blamed in mushrooming use of disabled list," Nightengale interviewed a trainer who told him, "Amphetamines are all over the game, without a doubt, but don't ask me if I've seen them in my clubhouse because I won't answer you." An ex-player says, "Amphetamines are available as easily as if the players wrote the Rx themselves." A manager said, "No question that amphetamine use is wild these days but the steroids bother me even more. I don't think they're a bad problem yet, but we'll never know without drug testing."

In other words, one Sporting News reporter, all by himself and no doubt in much less time, came to the same conclusion that the committee did -- 14 years ago. And his findings were published in a major sports publication. And those findings could have been rediscovered by the committee, without the threat of even a paper cut.

So why should we believe that the committee was thorough in its investigation?

On June 13, Palmeiro took a polygraph exam. The committee obtained a transcript of the exam. Palmeiro was never asked by the examiner whether he knowingly took steroids. The committee asked Palmeiro why he wasn't asked, and he answered, "I'm not sure. I did not set it up."

End of subject, except there is a footnote, which indicates that the polygraph was given by W. Ronald Lilly of Lilly Polygraph Services. What the report fails to say is: (1) why Palmeiro took the test; (2) who determined what questions to ask Palmeiro; and (3) why the committee didn't call Lilly up and ask him why he didn't ask Palmeiro directly about steroids!

In 2004, Mr. Palmeiro was also randomly tested under the MLB testing program. The committee was informed by MLB that copies of the 2004 tests were no longer available.

Meaning … the results were destroyed? All samples were destroyed? If so, why? If not, why are they not available?

However, MLB also informed the committee that all positive tests were required to be reported to the commissioner's office as positive. Because the results for the 2004 test were not reported to the commissioner's office as a positive, Mr. Palmeiro's test results must have been negative.

Someone on the committee has been brushing up on Logic 101. But let's summarize the above: Palmeiro never tested positive for steroids before. Which the committee already knew. The only reason to ask for previous test results -- the only logical reason -- would be to see if a mistake had been made, either in the testing process or the reporting process. Not likely, we know, because MLB drug-testing facilities never, ever make mistakes.

During an August interview with Palmeiro, the committee asked him repeatedly about whether he talked about and got steroids from Jose Canseco, as described in Canseco's book, "Juiced."

Palmeiro said "no" before, and, as you'd expect, he said "no" again. As would anyone who understood that Canseco had no evidence to back up what he said. So why did you ask, again?

At the end of a horrific weekend of reading and thinking, this reporter also ends up where he was about 20 years ago as a young journalism student, thinking about the concluding words of Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now" report on Senator McCarthy: "Cassius was right, 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'"

I read that darned report. The fault is in myself, and I'm exhausted. Can anyone tell me where to get some B-12?