Palmeiro Suspended For Steroid Violation

Rafael Palmeiro
After saying he had never used steroids at a congressional hearing earlier this year, Rafael Palmeiro has been suspended for violating baseball's drug policy. (Otto Greule Jr - Getty Images)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 2, 2005

BALTIMORE, Aug. 1 -- Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who had defiantly denied using steroids during a congressional hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in March, was suspended Monday for 10 days for violating baseball's anti-drug policy.

Although Major League Baseball officials declined to identify the substance Palmeiro was found to have used, a well-placed industry source said it was "a serious steroid."

Palmeiro, who on July 15 became one of only four players in major league history with 3,000 hits and more than 500 home runs, said he tested positive for a steroid but does not know how it got into his system. He appealed the suspension but an arbitrator ruled against him.

"Why would I do that in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified and I told the truth?" Palmeiro said. "Why would I do this in a season when I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line. I would not put my reputation on the line and everything that I've accomplished throughout my career. . . . I'm not a crazy person. I'm not stupid. This is something that's an unfortunate thing. It was an accident. I'm paying the price."

President Bush, the owner of the Texas Rangers when Palmeiro played for that team, told reporters Monday that he believes him.

"Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him," Bush said in an interview with the Knight Ridder news service. "He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."

On March 17, Palmeiro, Orioles teammate Sammy Sosa and retired sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire testified before the House Government Reform Committee investigating steroid use in professional sports. Emphatically pointing a finger toward legislators as he spoke, Palmeiro testified that "I have never used steroids. Period."

The panel found Palmeiro's testimony so compelling that he was asked to join a task force on steroids. Palmeiro had participated in several task force discussions and took part in a conference call last month with several representatives from other pro leagues.

"I'm disappointed, surprised certainly," Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a committee member, said by telephone. "At the hearing, out of all the players, I got the sense that Mr. Palmeiro's testimony was the most passionate and convincing. This latest evidence certainly doesn't help Mr. Palmeiro's case. We've given baseball and the union a chance to straighten itself out. . . . Maybe it's time for Congress to step in."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), another committee member, said he would "look into the possibility" that Palmeiro committed perjury by testifying that he didn't use steroids.

"The way he comes off is, 'Look, they were in my body, but it must have been an accident.' That's like talking out of both sides of your mouth," Cummings said. "I just wish he had been more forthcoming. I think people can accept that he made a mistake, but when you say, 'Yeah, I accept the punishment, but I really didn't do it,' then it gets kind of murky."

Steroid testing is done with a process called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, which can detect in urine the chemical signatures of the components of steroids. If the test detected the breakdown products of the steroid called stanozolol, there is virtually no doubt that Palmeiro used a banned substance, said Gary Wadler, a steroid expert at New York University.

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