House: '[Chances are] getting better and better'

Updated: August 7, 2005, 5:16 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A member of the House committee that held hearings on steroid use in March says Congress may feel compelled to get involved in testing major league players for banned substances.

"At this point I think [the chances are] getting better and better because of baseball's inability to police their own players," Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said Saturday on the ESPN program "Outside the Lines."

Witnesses before the House Government Reform Committee included Rafael Palmeiro, who adamantly denied using steroids but later failed a drug test. He has said he never intentionally took steroids and he doesn't know what caused the test result.

The reality is this: This Palmeiro situation, we wouldn't be talking about it if it were some second-string left fielder from the Colorado Rockies.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

The Baltimore Orioles slugger began serving a 10-day suspension last week and will be eligible to return to the lineup Thursday.

The House committee won Palmeiro's permission last week to obtain documents from Major League Baseball about the steroid test that led to his suspension. That information will be used to investigate whether Palmeiro committed perjury.

"I think [commissioner] Bud Selig and the players' association as well should allow us to have full disclosure when it comes to this matter, and all of these drug testing matters," said McHenry, a freshman congressman. "It's important to the integrity of the game. We're talking about our national pastime and who our kids look up to as heroes."

Major League Baseball has penalized its players for positive steroid tests since 2004. Selig wants more stringent testing by an independent authority and harsher punishments for steroid users, including a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

The quality of the players under suspicion raises the importance of assuring that baseball is clean, McHenry said on the program.

Palmeiro is one of four players in major-league history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits. A celebration of his 3,000th hit -- which came after the positive drug test but before the results were released -- was planned for this week but canceled at his request.

"The reality is this: This Palmeiro situation, we wouldn't be talking about it if it were some second-string left fielder from the Colorado Rockies," McHenry said. "We're talking about the Hall of Fame and whether or not you can be there with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron."

McHenry was dismayed by some of the March 17 testimony, specifically that of retired slugger Mark McGwire. McGwire has denied using steroids but repeatedly dodged the question while testifying under oath, saying: "I'm not here to talk about the past."

"I walked into that hearing a fan of Mark McGwire and walked away greatly disappointed," McHenry said. "His reactions to the questions that day just seemed to be stonewalling."

Palmeiro, he said, made a more favorable impression at the time.

"It turns out that maybe the reason why he was so good is that maybe he wasn't telling the truth," McHenry said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press