I have never lied. Period. I do not know how to say it more clearly than that. Never. That is to say, I've never lied intentionally. I may have accidentally uttered a lie. A lie may have been slipped into my speech without my knowledge. I may have inadvertently backed into a lie -- which would also explain the needle marks on my butt.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I have never, ever, used any banned substances. Period. They have no place in the game of baseball. Ever. Which is why I am so baffled to discover that I have apparently ingested some.

I am sure you would like to know how I happened to do this. I wish I could provide a specific answer. Unfortunately, I am not able to explain how such a substance entered my body -- but I have one or two theories.

I will start with the obvious culprit: the clubhouse buffet. Salad. Coleslaw. Chicken. And shellfish. Need I say more? I think we can all agree on the potential for being contaminated by herbicides, additives and algae.

My endorsements also will receive close scrutiny. It is entirely possible I am the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice, a polluted sample resulting from a Got Milk? commercial.

I did, for a time, accept a promotional fee from Viagra, and it did improve my strength and stamina, although I cannot attest to how many hits it helped me procure and it is certainly possible someone tinkered with my prescription.

I know that some members of the media have speculated on the spectacular way I broke out of my early-season hitting slump -- .247 batting average in March and April and .302 in May. I wish to state categorically that, to my knowledge, this is strictly the result of consuming large amounts of hydroponic broccoli. Period. I may very well be the victim of a poisoned water table. If the snakehead can invade our lakes and rivers, it seems to me that I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I want to repeat that I am not making excuses. There is no excuse for the sort of behavior that I don't engage in. But let me say that I've been reading the ingredients on the back of my shampoo bottle, and I don't know what half that stuff is. I'm not saying a banned compound entered my body via my hair -- but I'm not not saying it, either.

Also, have you ever noticed how, when you're really hot and thirsty, and you have a nice, cold Gatorade, you feel practically brand new? What's in that stuff? I'm just asking.

I would like to reiterate categorically that I do not know how such substances could have gotten in my system. Period. However, I will point out that not long ago I rented a limo that had been previously used by a guy I won't mention, Jose Canseco, the night before, and I may have sat on a discarded needle in the backseat.

At first, I thought it was a bee sting.

I'd like to thank President Bush, Gov. Schwarzenegger and Mark McGwire for their courageous leadership on this issue. They understand the dangers of going on a witch hunt for easy answers.

I don't like to call a lot of attention to the work I do with our troops. But like all Americans, I honor their service. Recently I shook hands with one outside a club in Fells Point. Maybe that was it. Everyone knows Saddam was working with some bad stuff over there.

Was it any one of these things? A combination? Unfortunately, I must abide by the rules of the players association and Major League Baseball, in their wisdom, and I'm not at liberty to say.

An order of confidentiality prevents me from answering fully. Confidentiality is an American value that I, personally, hold very dear -- and I think it is particularly important during a home run race. I realize Major League Baseball knew about my positive drug test before my 3,000th hit. I just want to say that I commend the league for its commitment to protect all players from the scourge of drug investigations, not just the innocent, but the guilty, too.

There's more than enough blame to go around. I don't want to be holier than thou. But when a guy I won't mention like Jose Canseco points fingers at other ballplayers, just because we go from hitting like Wade Boggs to hitting like Hank Aaron overnight, something is wrong. What does that say to our young people? Just because it takes you eight years to hit your first 100 home runs in the majors, the skeptics say it's fishy when you make it to 500? I, for one, am not going to kill their dreams.

As you know, I have pledged to do anything and everything I can to educate our youth about the dangers of drug taking. I think my fans know who I am, and I ask them to be patient and to continue to believe in me. I am confident that in the end they will see that I am merely the casualty of a flaw in the system. Again, the people who know me, know that I have never used a banned substance, except for the ones that accidentally, inadvertently, unintentionally, involuntarily, not on purpose, somehow got into my body.

In closing, I promise my fans, the young people, our troops and everyone who has stood by me, that I will do everything I can to figure this thing out, so that others can learn from my experience. Although, I have to warn you: It's a real stumper.

Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro is sworn in during a session on Capitol Hill about steroids in baseball in March. He has subsequently tested positive for steroids.