- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

The House Government Reform Committee will not seek perjury charges against former Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro because it can’t prove he lied during a hearing at which he denied ever taking steroids — just weeks before failing a drug test.

The committee yesterday stopped short of proclaiming Palmeiro steroid-free but said it can’t determine whether he took the banned substance before of after testifying on March 17.

“A referral for perjury is a serious step that requires convincing evidence that perjury may have been committed,” said Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican and chairman of the committee. “In this case, the evidence before the committee does not meet this standard.”

Palmeiro was called to testify before Congress on the steroid issue partly because he was one of several Major League Baseball players accused of steroid use in a book written by Jose Canseco, a former teammate of Palmeiro’s with the Texas Rangers. In his testimony, he said that he had “never taken steroids. Period.”

MLB then announced on Aug. 1 that Palmeiro tested positive for a banned substance, and quickly suspended him for 10 days. The committee then began investigating whether Palmeiro had lied under oath.

Palmeiro told investigators for the committee that the substance, later revealed to be a steroid known as stanozolol, could have come from a tainted B-12 shot supplied by Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada.

Palmeiro’s positive drug sample was collected by MLB on May 4, about six weeks after he testified. Stanozolol’s window of detection is about four weeks. Palmeiro said he took the B-12 injections in mid-April.

“The Committee is unable to determine whether Mr. Palmeiro took — either purposefully or inadvertently — the substance that resulted in his positive test before the March 17, 2005 hearing,” Davis said.

In a statement, Palmeiro responded thanking the committee members “for their fairness and professionalism with which they conducted their business.”

He added: “I have never intentionally taken steroids and I strongly oppose the illegal use of steroids by athletes or anyone else.”

Palmeiro is by far the most high-profile baseball player to test positive for steroids.

Davis spoke in the same room where Palmeiro and other players testified in March, in front of a photo collage and sign reading, “Baseball’s Moment of Reckoning.” He declined to say whether he personally believed Palmeiro’s contention that he took the steroid accidentally, but thecommitteee believes there are “inconsistencies” between Palmeiro’s responses and the other evidence collected.

The report on the committee’s investigation seems to refute Palmeiro’s contention that the stanozolol came from a tainted B-12 injection. Tejada, who supplied the B-12 and injected himself with part of the same vial, passed two steroid tests during the season. The unused B-12 in the same vial was also tested, and did not contain stanozolol.

Among the committee’s other findings:

• A former player and trainer told the committee that the use of amphetamines is more prevalent in baseball than steroids. The player reported that amphetamines, often referred to as “greenies,” were sometimes mixed in with clubhouse coffee and that they were considered “part of the baseball world.”

• No evidence was found that B-12 has ever been inadvertently tainted with stanozolol. However, the President of the Dominican Federation of Sports Medicine wrote that he had seen cases in the Dominican Republic where B-12 had been deliberately mixed with steroids. The B-12 shot administered to Palmeiro were bought by Tejada in the Dominican Republic.

• Palmeiro refused to have the B-12 injections administered by a team physician or trainer, even though that was the common practice. Instead, he was injected by his wife, who had never before administered shots to a person but frequently injected her dogs with medicine.

• Palmeiro disputes the notion that he transformed quickly from a light-hitting player to a home run hitter. “[I]f you go back beyond my professional career … I hit home runs everywhere,” he told investigators. “I don’t know if you guys follow my career, but my home runs are barely going over the wall. … I have always had success all the way back when I first started.”

It is unclear whether Palmeiro’s career is over. He is a free agent and has said he would like to continue playing, but so far no teams have expressed any outward interest in signing him. He hit .266 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI in 110 games for the Orioles last season, and also recorded his 3,000th career hit. However, his performance has declined significantly since he left the Rangers in 2003 and age 41, he would be one of the oldest players in baseball.

Meanwhile yesterday, Davis said he believes Congress will this year approve legislation that would toughen penalties for steroid use in professional sports. The Senate is expected to vote soon on a bill that would enact a half-season for a first steroid test, a full-season band for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. Davis said the house will likely pass an identical or similar bill.

The effort is viewed as an attempt to urge pro sports leagues to toughen their own internal steroids policies. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has proposed a 50-game suspension for the first offense, 100 games for the second and a lifetime ban for the third, but the league has yet to institute the plan.

“They don’t have much time,” Davis said. “They have a couple of weeks.”

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