WASHINGTON -- Congress will investigate whether baseball slugger Rafael Palmeiro perjured himself when he told a House committee that he hadn't taken steroids.
With the player's consent, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, asked Major League Baseball on Wednesday to turn over information about the failed drug test that resulted in a 10-day suspension for Palmeiro this week.
On March 17, Palmeiro appeared before their panel and said under
oath: "I have never used steroids. Period."
"As a practical matter, perjury referrals are uncommon," Davis
told The Associated Press. "Prosecutions are rare. But this is a
high-profile case, so I think it will get an honest look-see. I
don't think anyone can avoid it.
"If we did nothing," he added, "I think we'd look like idiots. Don't you?"
Palmeiro, who plays for the Baltimore Orioles, tested positive for the powerful steroid stanozolol, a person with knowledge of the sport's drug-testing program told the AP on condition of anonymity.
The person did not want to be identified because the sport
prohibits disclosure of test results without authorization.
The positive test came after Palmeiro's appearance before Congress but before he recorded his 3,000th hit last month. That means he reached the milestone -- joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers -- after he knew about the positive results, the source told the AP.
When the suspension was announced Monday, Palmeiro stood by his statements to Congress and said he didn't know what caused the
Stanozolol is what sprinter Ben Johnson of Canada tested
positive for when he was stripped of his gold medal and world
record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics. It is not available
in over-the-counter supplements and is known as a powerful
"It's hard for me to reconcile that someone doesn't know that
they have steroids in their body. I'm extraordinarily skeptical,"
said committee member Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.
"It obviously was disappointing and a little unsettling that
the one person so emphatic about not taking steroids was one of the
first since then to be disciplined."
Rather than relying on news reports, Davis said, Congress will
wait to see what it learns from the information baseball provides.
"How long does this stuff stay in the system? All of that.
We're going to look at that to see what the probabilities are,"
The lawmakers asked for the complete results of all drug tests
taken by Palmeiro, including what was detected and how much. During
a telephone conversation with Davis on Tuesday night, Palmeiro
agreed to have baseball release that information to Congress.
"He was pretty adamant about the point he didn't do anything,"
Davis said. "He also remarked he didn't have a lot of time to
enjoy his 3,000th hit. There was an allusion to that."
They spoke for about three minutes and Palmeiro had attorneys on
the phone with him, Davis said.
"What we are concerned about, obviously, is the integrity of
the committee process when we swear people in. We have an
obligation to look further into it, and I explained that to him,
and he said he understood," the congressman said.
In confirming that he would cooperate with the committee,
Palmeiro said in a statement that if it has any additional
questions, "I am ready and willing to answer each and every one of
Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the documents would be
released as requested "in a timely manner," but did not give
specifics and did not know if they would be made public once
The No. 2 official in the players' association, Gene Orza,
declined comment when asked whether the union was concerned about
Palmeiro's willingness to supply information. The union fought hard
to protect the confidentiality of those involved in the testing
Palmeiro's agent Arn Tellum, however, is not happy with MLB's conduct.
"The confidentiality rules that the arbitrator set in this case have been broken by MLB," Tellum said in a statement. "Rafael has respected the rules by not discussing the specifics, but unfortunately MLB has not done the same. What MLB has done is outrageous and it undermines the integrity of their drug testing program. There is another side to this story, and Raffy will tell it soon. I hope that the public will wait to make a final judgment about Rafael until they hear his story in its entirety."
Rob Manfred, MLB executive VP, labor relations & human resources, differs with Tellum's assessment.
"Major League Baseball respected the confidentiality order that was imposed and the only one that has been talking about the facts of this case is Rafael Palmeiro," Manfred said in a statement.
Davis was critical of commissioner Bud Selig, the union and the
sport's steroid policy at the March hearing. He and Waxman have
proposed legislation that would establish uniform drug programs and
punishments in the major U.S. professional sports.
But Davis praised baseball's handling of the Palmeiro case.
"He did get an appeal under this procedure. He filed it. And
obviously they didn't cut him any slack," Davis said. "I'm
satisfied that baseball proceeded as they said they would."
Among the questions that Congress can't answer are what all of
this will mean for Palmeiro's Hall of Fame candidacy.
One of Palmeiro's former teams, the Texas Rangers, canceled a planned ceremony before Friday night's game against the Orioles to honor him for reaching 3,000 hits. Major league rules don't allow suspended players on the field after batting practice.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.