Less than three weeks ago Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro was on top of the baseball world.

He became just the fourth player in the history of the major leagues to total 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. His name would be mentioned with baseball greats Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

Palmeiro also had a reputation as one of baseball's "good guys." He would often bring his kids to the ballpark and play catch with them before a game. He also was among a group of players who earlier this year talked to Congress about the problem of steroids in baseball.

Steroids help build up muscles by making it possible for players to work out longer and harder than they normally could.

Steroids are meant to be taken by prescription and only to treat serious medical conditions. But players have been accused of taking the drugs so they can hit more home runs. Doctors say that taking steroids when not needed might make a person sick.

Palmeiro told Congress in March that he "never used steroids. Period."

But this week Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days for doing what he swore he had never done.

Many of his fans -- especially kids -- were devastated.

"I was so surprised. I thought he was a very honest person. He was an idol to little kids," said Ivanna Pearlstein, 11, of Washington. She attends the Home Run Baseball Camp at Friendship Playground in Northwest Washington.

"It's just, like, crushing, that he lied right in front of everyone," said camper Sam Muslin, 12, of St. Louis, Missouri. "It changes the way you think of him."

Meredith Bentsen, 11, of Washington, said she had considered Palmeiro a role model, but no longer: "Now, he's just a player, not a leader."

The campers had heard Palmeiro's partial explanation -- that he did not "knowingly" take the steroid -- and they weren't buying it.

"It's not like he was sleeping and somebody came into his house and put the steroids into him," Sam said, rolling his eyes.

The kids said Palmeiro should have known that it wasn't right to cheat and lie. That's something they've known since preschool.

"Our parents tell us never to do this stuff. It's wrong, it's cheating," said Cameron Kostyack, 11, of Washington.

The coaches say "there's other ways to be good in baseball," said Ruben Deleon, 8, of Silver Spring, "like, by practicing and trying hard."

All the campers said the news about Palmeiro left them wondering, "Do all the other players take steroids, too?"

Cameron said he looks to the past, to players such as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, to find role models: "They did what they did before steroids were even around."

-- Fern Shen

Meredith Bentsen, 11, says Palmeiro is no role model: "Now, he's just a player, not a leader." Baltimore Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro has been suspended 10 days for failing steroids test.From left, Meredith Bentsen, Cameron Kostyack, Sam Muslin and Ruben Deleon discuss Palmeiro. "Our parents tell us never to do this stuff. It's wrong, it's cheating," said Cameron.