Rafael Palmeiro claims no steroid use

Rafael Palmeiro is sticking to his story that a tainted vitamin shot caused his failed drug test five years ago and hopes Hall of Fame voters will overlook the mistake and honor him for his 3,020 hits and 569 homers.

A week before the Baseball Writers Association of America announces its inductees to baseball's Hall of Fame, Palmeiro told SI.com in a phone interview posted Wednesday that he never used performance-enhancing drugs in his 20-year career. As he asserted in 2005 after he was suspended for failing a test, Palmeiro again insisted the anabolic steroid was in a B-12 vial given to him by Baltimore Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada.

"I was telling the truth then, and I am telling the truth now," Palmeiro said. "I don't know what else I can say. I have never taken steroids. For people who think I took steroids intentionally, I'm never going to convince them. But I hope the voters judge my career fairly and don't look at one mistake."

One of only four players in big league history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, Palmeiro's once-certain election to the Hall is in jeopardy. Baseball voters four times have denied Mark McGwire, 10th on the career list with 583 homers, and his election seems unlikely -- McGwire received only 23.7 percent of the vote last year and 75 percent is needed.

"I never played for the Hall of Fame," Palmeiro, a four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove first baseman, told SI.com on Tuesday. "I only played to win and have fun. But, yes, now the Hall of Fame is important to me. Why wouldn't I want to be there? It would mean more than anything to me. I hope they don't hold me out for one mistake at the end of my career."

Perhaps the most memorable moment Palmeiro's career came when he boldly wagged his finger during a congressional hearing in March 2005, saying, "I have never used steroids. Period."

That July he got his 3,000th hit, and three weeks later it was announced he tested positive for steroids and was suspended 10 games.

Considering the elite statistics and the late period of his career, Palmeiro told the website he doesn't understand why people don't believe him.

"I don't want to take anything for granted, but there was a legitimate chance that I was going to get 3,000," Palmeiro said Tuesday. "I had no motivation to take steroids because I was at the end of my career."

A few days before Major League Baseball made the failed test public, Palmeiro called President George W. Bush at the White House -- Bush was a former owner of the Texas Rangers, one of Palmeiro's teams along with the Chicago Cubs and Orioles.

"I had a number for him, and it was a very difficult call to make because he had been so supportive of me," Palmeiro told SI.com. "I didn't want him to read about it in the newspaper or hear it on television.

"He's always given me good advice, and that day he told me that he was behind me. He told me to just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may," Palmeiro recalled. "He told me to tell the truth and stick with it."