- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro thought he never got the attention or acclaim he deserved. He would obsess over this and sometimes hound the Baltimore Orioles’ public-relations department to promote him more.

Yesterday, the Orioles obliged. They held a conference call for the national media about Rafael Palmeiro.

He would have given anything to be invisible again.

The Orioles first baseman was suspended yesterday for testing positive for steroids, which was stunning considering the way he testified before a Congressional committee in March about steroid abuse in baseball.

It was stunning because, testifying under oath at that hearing on Capitol Hill, Palmeiro did not decline to answer questions as did Mark McGwire. He didn’t give a lawyer-authored, loophole-filled statement about not breaking laws in the Dominican Republic, as did Sammy Sosa.

Palmeiro sat there as a victim enraged by allegations made by Jose Canseco, who had written in his book “Juiced” that he had given Palmeiro steroids when they played for the Texas Rangers in 1992 and 1993.

Palmeiro pointed his finger and said — and underlined in the written statement entered into the record — “I have never used steroids. Period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”

Now Palmeiro will take his place alongside Bill Clinton in the Hall of Shame. It may be the only “Hall” Palmeiro winds up in.

Palmeiro was suspended 10 days for violating baseball’s drug policy by testing positive for steroids. He began the suspension yesterday afternoon in the series finale against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards, where a banner celebrating his 3,000th career hit of two weeks ago hangs from the B&O; Warehouse.

I wonder if the club will replace it with, “Raffy, say it ain’t so.”

Palmeiro’s suspension will cost him about $164,000 in salary but much more than that in legacy and history — and perhaps lawyer fees. His positive drug test surely will result in a perjury investigation by the House Committee on Government Reform, even though Palmeiro in the conference call yesterday called the positive result an accident.

“When I testified, I knew I was testifying under oath,” Palmeiro said. “I told the truth, and today I am telling the truth again, that I did not do this knowingly or intentionally.”

It’s hard to determine which is more pathetic: doing it on purpose, or, if you believe Palmeiro, accidentally taking something with steroids in it. In today’s climate in baseball — particularly when you have been brought before Congress because of claims you used steroids — if you took anything more than a Flintstones vitamin, you are an idiot.

Palmeiro opted for the idiot defense yesterday, using the crazy man defense to support his claim that he did not knowingly take steroids.

“Why would I do this in a year when I went in front of Congress?” he said. “Why do this in a season where I would get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line and my reputation on the line.

“I am not a crazy person. I am not stupid. It was an accident, and I am paying the price.”

But his claims ring hollow when, in the same breath, he says he hopes that young people and fellow players learn from his mistake.

He released a statement that read, “I feel the need to communicate a serious message to my fellow players and to kids everywhere. All of us have to be responsible and exercise extreme care in what we put in our body. I hope that all MLB players and kids will learn from what has happened to me. I have never intentionally used a banned substance, but I unfortunately wasn’t careful enough.”

So what will we all learn? Palmeiro insisted yesterday that he has no idea what caused the positive test. So is the lesson that everyone in sports should get a chemistry degree? Or hire their own private testers? The lesson is lost on me.

This could be the end of Palmeiro’s chances of election to Cooperstown.

Palmeiro is one of only four players in history to have hit at least 500 home runs and accumulate 3,000 hits. Still, critics say Palmeiro was not a dominant player during his era. Now he has given those doubters reason to dismiss his Hall of Fame numbers. I suspect, as time goes by, others such as McGwire and Sosa will be dismissed as well as the truth trickles out.

This is also another blow to the Orioles franchise, which, under the ownership of Peter Angelos, has suffered one embarrassment after another.

This year, the cover of the Orioles’ media guide has the faces of three players on it. Two of them testified before Congress in March. Palmeiro has now tested positive for steroid use. Sosa tests positive every time he drags his pathetic 13 home runs and .235 average bat up to the plate.

This is now the Oriole way.



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