- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Congress isn’t through with Rafael Palmeiro.

A House committee will investigate whether the Baltimore Orioles slugger committed perjury by testifying under oath that he never took performance-enhancing drugs.

Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said yesterday that Palmeiro agreed to let Major League Baseball turn over information about the failed drug test that resulted in a 10-day suspension for the player this week.

On March 17, Palmeiro appeared before Davis’ panel, jabbed his finger in the air for emphasis and declared: “I have never used steroids. Period.”

Palmeiro tested positive for the powerful steroid stanozolol, a person with knowledge of the sport’s drug-testing program told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The person did not want to be identified because the sport prohibits disclosure of test results without authorization.

“As a practical matter, perjury referrals are uncommon,” Davis said in a telephone interview with the AP. “Prosecutions are rare. But this is a high-profile case, so I think it will get an honest look-see. I don’t think anyone can avoid it.

“If we did nothing,” Davis added, “I think we’d look like idiots. Don’t you?”

Davis and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, asked baseball to turn over information about the failed test — and any other drug tests Palmeiro has taken — including what was detected and how much.

The positive test came after Palmeiro’s appearance before Congress but before he notched his 3,000th hit last month. That means he reached the milestone — joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers — after he knew about the positive results, the source told the AP.

When the suspension was announced Monday, Palmeiro stood by his statements to Congress and said he didn’t know what caused the positive test.

Stanozolol is what sprinter Ben Johnson of Canada tested positive for when he was stripped of his gold medal and world record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics. It is not available in over-the-counter supplements and is known as a powerful strength-builder. It can be ingested in tablet form, leaving one’s system in less than a month, or injected, lasting several weeks longer.

“It’s hard for me to reconcile that someone doesn’t know that they have steroids in their body. I’m extraordinarily skeptical,” said committee member Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican.

“It obviously was disappointing and a little unsettling that the one person so emphatic about not taking steroids was one of the first since then to be disciplined.”

Rather than relying on news reports, Davis said, Congress will wait to see what it learns from the information baseball provides. Palmeiro agreed that it be released during a telephone conversation with Davis on Tuesday night.

“He was pretty adamant about the point he didn’t do anything,” Davis said. “He also remarked he didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy his 3,000th hit. There was an allusion to that.”

They spoke for about three minutes and Palmeiro’s attorneys were on the phone with him, Davis said.

“What we are concerned about, obviously, is the integrity of the committee process when we swear people in. We have an obligation to look further into it, and I explained that to him, and he said he understood,” the congressman said.

In confirming that he would cooperate with the committee, Palmeiro said in a statement that if it has any additional questions, “I am ready and willing to answer each and every one of them.”

Palmeiro’s agent, Arn Tellem, did not return a telephone call from the AP.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the documents would be released as requested “in a timely manner,” but did not give specifics and did not know if they would be made public once received.

The No. 2 official in the players’ association, Gene Orza, declined comment when asked whether the union was concerned about Palmeiro’s willingness to supply information.

Davis was critical of the union, commissioner Bud Selig, and the sport’s steroid policy at the March hearing. He and Waxman have proposed legislation that would establish uniform drug programs and punishments in the major U.S. professional sports.

But Davis praised baseball’s handling of the Palmeiro case.

“He did get an appeal under this procedure. He filed it. And obviously they didn’t cut him any slack,” Davis said. “I’m satisfied that baseball proceeded as they said they would.”

Among the questions that Congress can’t answer are what all of this will mean for Palmeiro’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

One of Palmeiro’s former teams, the Texas Rangers, canceled a planned ceremony before tomorrow night’s game against the Orioles to honor him for reaching 3,000 hits. Major league rules don’t allow suspended players on the field after batting practice.

AP sports writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

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