- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Major League Baseball yesterday suspended Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro for 10 days for violating its drug policy by using steroids, less than five months after Palmeiro emphatically denied in testimony before Congress that he had ever used a banned substance.

The suspension represents the first high-profile catch for baseball’s new drug- testing program, which this year toughened penalties for steroid use. Six little-known major league players and dozens of minor leaguers have tested positive.

Palmeiro in March told federal lawmakers, “I have never used steroids. Period.”

Yesterday, he could not explain how he failed the test. Confidentiality provisions in the testing program preclude Palmeiro, Major League Baseball or the players’ union from providing specifics about the test.

“I have never intentionally used a banned substance, but I unfortunately wasn’t careful enough,” said Palmeiro, who publicly supported the new testing policy.

The Major League Baseball Players Association and Palmeiro filed a grievance challenging the suspension. However, an arbitration panel yesterday upheld the penalty, the standard punishment for a first-time offender.

MLB levied the suspension earlier this year, but the penalty was delayed and kept secret until the arbitration panel ruled. MLB would not say when the positive test occurred.

Palmeiro will lose $163,934 of his $3 million salary during the suspension.

The suspension mars a playing career that likely would have earned the 40-year-old a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The remarkably consistent Palmeiro last month became just the fourth player in major league history — after Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray — to accumulate at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in a career.

Now, his place in history is in doubt.

“I hope that people look at my whole career and appreciate that I’ve given everything that I’ve got,” Palmeiro said. “I respect the game. I respect my opponents. I respect the players that came before me. I respect the Hall of Fame, and if they think that I’m worthy enough, I would be very honored. And if they don’t, I gave it all that I had to this game.”

Palmeiro was contrite in a prepared statement and a conference call with reporters. He said he had spoken with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Orioles owner Peter Angelos and had attempted to contact members of Congress to convey his regrets.

“I am facing up to what has happened,” Palmeiro said. “I’m going to serve my suspension. It’s an embarrassing and unfortunate situation.”

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican and the lead figure in the congressional fight against steroids in professional sports, was in Cuba and unavailable to comment.

His spokesman, Robert White, said, “If true, this is disheartening news for those of us who believed Mr. Palmeiro was a key ally in our effort to rid sports of performance enhancing drugs.”

Congressional sources said it was premature to guess whether Mr. Davis’ House Committee on Government Reform would pursue perjury charges against Palmeiro. The four-time All-Star said yesterday that he told the truth in March when he testified under oath and said again he did not take steroids.

“Today, I am telling the truth again that I did not do this knowingly or intentionally,” Palmeiro said.

Any perjury charges would require proof that Palmeiro took steroids prior to his March 17 appearance on Capitol Hill.

Palmeiro’s positive test lends support to claims made by Jose Canseco, a former teammate and admitted steroid user, in his book “Juiced.”

Canseco named Palmeiro as a steroid user and, in a “60 Minutes” interview, said he injected Palmeiro with steroids.

Mr. Angelos offered Palmeiro support.

“I am truly saddened by today’s events. … I know from personal experience that his accomplishments are due to hard work and his dedication to the game,” Mr. Angelos said. “I know that Rafael will accept the penalty under baseball’s important drug policy and that he will return to be a productive member of the Orioles.”

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