Palmeiro pledges 'full cooperation'
WASHINGTON -- Congress will investigate whether baseball slugger Rafael Palmeiro perjured himself when he told a House committee that he hadn't taken steroids.
With the player's consent, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, asked Major League Baseball on Wednesday to turn over information about the failed drug test that resulted in a 10-day suspension for Palmeiro this week.
On March 17, Palmeiro appeared before their panel and said under oath: "I have never used steroids. Period."
"As a practical matter, perjury referrals are uncommon," Davis told The Associated Press. "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," he added, "I think we'd look like idiots. Don't you?"
Palmeiro, who plays for the Baltimore Orioles, tested positive for the powerful steroid stanozolol, a person with knowledge of the sport's drug-testing program told the AP on condition of anonymity. The person did not want to be identified because the sport prohibits disclosure of test results without authorization.
The positive test came after Palmeiro's appearance before Congress but before he recorded his 3,000th hit last month. That means he reached the milestone -- joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players in major league history 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'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, R-Conn.
"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.
"How long does this stuff stay in the system? All of that. We're going to look at that to see what the probabilities are," Davis said.
The lawmakers asked for the complete results of all drug tests taken by Palmeiro, including what was detected and how much. During a telephone conversation with Davis on Tuesday night, Palmeiro agreed to have baseball release that information to Congress.
"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 had attorneys 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."
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. The union fought hard to protect the confidentiality of those involved in the testing process.
Palmeiro's agent Arn Tellum, however, is not happy with MLB's conduct.
"The confidentiality rules that the arbitrator set in this case have been broken by MLB," Tellum said in a statement. "Rafael has respected the rules by not discussing the specifics, but unfortunately MLB has not done the same. What MLB has done is outrageous and it undermines the integrity of their drug testing program. There is another side to this story, and Raffy will tell it soon. I hope that the public will wait to make a final judgment about Rafael until they hear his story in its entirety."
Rob Manfred, MLB executive VP, labor relations & human resources, differs with Tellum's assessment.
"Major League Baseball respected the confidentiality order that was imposed and the only one that has been talking about the facts of this case is Rafael Palmeiro," Manfred said in a statement.
Davis was critical of commissioner Bud Selig, the union 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 Friday 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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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