Rafael Palmeiro became a free agent yesterday following a tumultuous season in which he became the highest-profile player suspended for steroids.

Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers also filed, not wanted back by the Rangers after throwing a tantrum and shoving two television cameramen.

Also among the 54 players filing were Boston center fielder Johnny Damon, New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza, Cleveland pitcher Kevin Millwood, Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman.

Palmeiro became the fourth player in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers, but on Aug. 1 was suspended for 10 days after testing positive for stanozolol.

The 40-year-old, who in March told a congressional committee that he had never used steroids, went 2 for 26 with one RBI when he came back and wore earplugs during a game in Toronto.

Baltimore sent him home Sept. 5 to rehabilitate his right knee. When he was ready to return in late September, the team told him not to bother, and he finished with a .266 average, 18 homers and 60 RBI.

* GOLF: Steve Lowery birdied three straight holes to start his back nine and finished with a 5-under-par 66 for a two-shot lead over Bo Van Pelt at the Chrysler Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla. . . . PGA champion Phil Mickelson decided not to play in the Tour Championship, the second time in the last five years he has skipped the season-ending event for the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list.

* CYCLING: Lance Armstrong criticized the Tour de France director yesterday as "someone who continues to ignore the truth" for suggesting that next year's race will be better off without the seven-time champion. Director Jean-Marie LeBlanc questioned Armstrong's record as a drug-free rider a day earlier when Tour officials announced the setup for the 2006 race.

* SPEEDSKATING: Cindy Klassen of Canada broke her own world record at 1,500 meters at the World Cup team trials in Calgary, Alberta.

She was timed in 1 minute 53.77 seconds, beating her previous mark of 1:53.87 set on Jan. 9 at a World Cup competition in Salt Lake City.

* TENNIS: Umpires will use instant replay at a tournament for the first time next month when the recently approved Hawk-Eye technology is tested at a seniors event in London.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Seven Chattanooga players were suspended for what the chancellor describes as curfew violations. The group includes three starters. The violations coincided with a pre-dawn Oct. 21 gang rape complaint by a female student.

* RUNNING: Two-time winner and women's record holder Margaret Okayo has withdrawn from the New York City Marathon because of a leg injury.

* COURTS: Former Iowa basketball star Pierre Pierce was sentenced to four years in prison for assaulting a former girlfriend last January.

-- From News Services