Orioles Star Faces Inquiry For Testimony on Steroids
Thursday, August 4, 2005
ANAHEIM, Calif., Aug. 3 -- The House Government Reform Committee -- which heard Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's testimony in March that he had never used steroids, while he jabbed his index finger in the air for emphasis -- has opened an investigation into whether Palmeiro may have lied under oath.
Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) spoke by telephone with Palmeiro -- suspended Monday for violating baseball's steroid policy -- on Tuesday night and informed him of the committee's plan to investigate the veracity of his March 17 testimony. During the conversation, Davis said, Palmeiro pledged to cooperate with the inquiry and repeated his assertion, first made during a conference call with reporters on Monday, that he did not know how the substance got into his system.
"He stayed with that story," Davis said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I said, 'Raffy, you understand we have an obligation to pursue this, because you testified to us under oath,' and there is some question now as to how long [the steroid] had been in his system" at the time of the positive test.
"If there's anybody in the world I'd like to give a free pass to in this, it's Raffy," Davis said. "But I didn't give a free pass to [former president Bill] Clinton, and I can't here, either."
In a statement released by the team Wednesday, Palmeiro said: "I spoke with Congressman Davis yesterday and told him that I will fully cooperate with him and the Committee. I will provide them with any information they need and if he or any other Committee member has additional questions, I am ready and willing to answer each and every one of them."
Two New York newspapers reported Tuesday night that Palmeiro tested positive for stanozolol, a potent steroid, and a source with intimate knowledge of the matter confirmed it Wednesday morning.
"If it's true that he used that particular drug," said committee member Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), "it's even more damning of Mr. Palmeiro's conduct in this case."
Palmeiro's agent, Arn Tellem, blamed Major League Baseball officials for Tuesday's leak of the name of the drug. "The confidentiality rules that the arbitrator set in this case have been broken by MLB," Tellem 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."
In reply, Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, said in a telephone interview, "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."
Drug experts say it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which an athlete could inadvertently or unknowingly consume stanozolol, which is known as Winstrol or Winny. Stanozolol is the drug for which Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Stanozolol, which has a very distinctive structure, is not found in dietary supplements and has not been associated with supplement contamination, unlike steroids such as nandrolone.
Don Catlin, the director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, said stanozolol showed up in 11.8 percent of positive drug tests recorded by the International Olympic Committee between 1988 and 2002. Only nandrolone and testosterone (as measured by a ratio test) showed up more often, Catlin said.