By Del Quentin Wilber and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada is scheduled to plead guilty today to federal charges that he lied to congressional investigators about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Tejada, the 2002 American League MVP who now plays for the Houston Astros, was accused yesterday of making misrepresentations to congressional staffers during a 2005 interview in a Baltimore hotel room that focused on the prevalence of steroids in the game.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Tejada lied to the staffers when he told them he never discussed steroids with other players and didn't know anybody using the substances. He also denied ever taking the drugs. In fact, prosecutors alleged, Tejada bought $6,300 of human growth hormone from a teammate in 2003. That year, Tejada talked to a teammate about steroids and human growth hormone and knew that the other player was taking the substances, prosecutors said.
Tejada was charged with one misdemeanor count of making a misrepresentation to Congress. The charges came in "a criminal information," a document that can only be filed with the defendant's consent and usually signals a plea deal is near. Tejada, 34, is scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. today in U.S. District Court in Washington for his plea hearing, court officials said.
Although not charged with taking performance-enhancing drugs or lying about using them, Tejada nevertheless becomes the latest prominent major leaguer to become ensnared in the steroids scandal hammering baseball.
Barry Bonds, one of the game's most prolific sluggers, is slated to stand trial next month on charges of lying to a grand jury about using steroids. On Monday, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez admitted that he used steroids for a three-year stretch after word leaked out about a 2003 positive test. One hundred three other players tested positive in that survey test but have not been identified.
Tejada's charges suggest that one of the game's best pitchers may also be in more trouble than previously realized. Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is being investigated by a federal grand jury on allegations he lied to Congress last year when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. His trainer alleges that he injected Clemens nearly 40 times with steroids and human growth hormone.
"This shows that [authorities] are taking steroids and baseball very seriously," said Steven McCool, a former federal prosecutor. "This sends a signal that even when you are just providing information to the legislative branch about steroids, you need to be truthful."
Tejada's attorney, Mark Tuohey, did not return a phone message or e-mail seeking comment. He declined to comment Monday night on whether his client planned to plead guilty to federal charges in coming days.
Tejada faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail, but advisory sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of probation to six months behind bars, authorities said.
The shortstop is in trouble for answers he gave congressional staffers at a Baltimore hotel on Aug. 26, 2005.
Tejada was asked by a congressional staffer: Have "there been discussions among other players about steroids?"
"No, I never heard," Tejada said, speaking through a Spanish interpreter.
Later, the investigator asked whether he knew of "any other player using steroids."
"No," Tejada answered. "I didn't know any player."
In early 2008, Tejada's denials began to concern members of Congress who had just reviewed a report by former senator George J. Mitchell on steroid use in baseball. The report alleged that Tejada discussed performance-enhancing drugs with a teammate, Adam Piatt, and purchased some from him in 2003. Lawmakers asked the Justice Department to investigate Tejada's truthfulness.
In court documents filed yesterday, prosecutors said Tejada's statements to congressional staffers contradict information supplied by Piatt, who is not identified by name.
Piatt told investigators that it all started one day in the Oakland Athletics' clubhouse when Tejada noticed Piatt's physique, authorities said. Tejada "mentioned that [Piatt] looked in great shape physically and asked [Piatt] what he was doing to help him be in such good physical shape," prosecutor Steven J. Durham, chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office's public corruption unit, wrote in court documents.
Soon, the conversations turned to Piatt's use of steroids and human growth hormone, Durham wrote.
Durham wrote that Tejada then bought human growth hormone from Piatt. Piatt told investigators that he did not know whether Tejada took the hormones.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), whose committee has investigated steroids in baseball, issued a statement saying that prosecutors have taken the "appropriate action" in Tejada's case.
"The recent revelations about steroid use by professional players should send a strong message to our youth about the consequences of the use of these dangerous and illegal drugs," said Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Tejada was once considered one of the top players in baseball, and the six-year, $72 million contract he signed with the Orioles before the 2003 season remains the largest in the history of the Baltimore franchise.
However, the Orioles traded him to the Astros for five players in December 2007, the day before the release of the Mitchell report on steroids in baseball.
His 2008 and 2009 seasons were, statistically, his worst since his rookie season of 1998.