Congress Declines to Prosecute Palmeiro for Perjury
Friday, November 11, 2005
Citing a lack of sufficient evidence, the House Government Reform Committee concluded yesterday it it would not recommend perjury charges against former Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro. But the panel's chairman stopped short of exonerating the first baseman, saying the committee had received evidence that was "confusing and contradictory in many respects" in an investigation that began Aug. 1, when Major League Baseball announced Palmeiro had tested positive for steroids.
Palmeiro's positive result was in direct contrast to his testimony in front of the committee at a hearing in March, when he insisted under oath he had never used steroids during his career and punctuated his comments with a marked point of his finger.
In announcing the panel's decision, Rep. Thomas A Davis III (R-Va.), the committee chairman, did not fully absolve Palmeiro. "We couldn't find any evidence of steroid use prior to his testimony," Davis said. "That's not a finding of innocence, but it's a finding that we could not substantiate perjury."
A report released by the committee raises questions about Palmeiro's testimony that a tainted B-12 shot given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada had caused a positive steroid result. Neither Palmeiro, who in an interview on Wednesday said he is still considering playing next season, nor his attorneys commented on the discrepancies in his testimony.
"I am pleased that after a thorough investigation -- one in which I cooperated fully -- the Committee has decided to drop this matter," Palmeiro said in a statement. "I want to express my gratitude to the Committee for the fairness and professionalism with which they conducted their business."
Perhaps the most damning of the evidence against Palmeiro in the committee's report was an assertion by players association counsel Michael Weiner, who represented Palmeiro in an arbitration hearing, that the B-12 could not have caused the positive test result.
"The players association does not contend that the B-12 shot that Mr. Palmeiro took caused his positive test result," Weiner told the arbitration panel, which was ruling on Palmeiro's grievance against the original test result, in his closing arguments. "We have no evidence to suggest that. As a matter of fact, all of the evidence that exists runs in the other direction."
Palmeiro, when asked about Weiner's statement during the House committee's investigation, said: "I disagree with what he's saying. He is speaking on the players' asociation behalf, but I feel that the B-12 was probably the thing that might have done it."
In that arbitration hearing Weiner presented a polygraph taken by Palmeiro. But Palmeiro was not asked during the test if he had ever used steroids. Instead Palmeiro was asked, "Did you unknowingly receive a B-12 supplement that contained a steroid?" Palmeiro answered, "Yes," which seemingly contradicted an earlier statement that he was unsure what caused the positive result.
Palmeiro's defense in the committee's investigation relied heavily on the possibility that a tainted B-12 shot had caused him to fail a drug test. But the report reveals that three samples of the vitamin, two given by Tejada and the other by an unidentified Orioles player who had gotten the B-12 from the Orioles shortstop, were tested and were not contaminated with stanozolol, the drug found in Palmeiro's system. Also, Tejada passed two drug tests during the 2005 season.
"The Committee obtained no evidence indicating that B-12 has ever been inadvertently contaminated with stanozolol," the report said.
Palmeiro, in his interview on Wednesday, said he only brought up Tejada's name because he was asked to do so under oath. But the report shows that the first baseman willingly, though reluctantly, brought up his former teammate's name in a conversation with Weiner only days after the positive test result was revealed.
Though Tejada is not implicated in any steroid use, his testimony raised some questions. Tejada said he supplied two unnamed Orioles teammates -- identified by the panel as players A and B -- with B-12 during the 2005 season. But his accounts of when the B-12 was given and how much of it was supplied differed in the testimony of the two players. The players testified that each had personally injected Tejada at least 30 times with B-12 since 2004.
"During our investigation the Committee did find substantial inconsistencies between Mr. Tejada's accounts and the accounts of players A and B," Davis said. "While these inconsistencies were curious to us, we did not pursue them further because this was not a material part of the investigation."
Davis said he hoped the committee's findings would help bring scrutiny upon baseball's drug testing policy. During its investigation the committee discovered that players were often unsupervised when providing a urine sample.
Davis said he believes the investigation will add momentum to congressional efforts to establish a uniform drug testing policy for all sports. "There is no question that the positive test by Mr. Palmeiro continues to spark interest in Congress to move steroid legislation," Davis said.