Palmeiro's race to clear name should have been first red flag

OTHER VOICES

August 02, 2005

What columnists around the country are saying about Rafael Palmeiro:

Mike Downey, Chicago Tribune

Jose Canseco, who is a bit of a flake and a bit of a jerk, took more flak for outing players who took steroids than he did for admitting that he took steroids.

He put what was left of his reputation on the line. The words he put on paper embarrassed baseball -- and Congress -- sufficiently to make them take immediate and stronger action to expose and discipline steroid abusers.

People responded by doing what they always do to whistle-blowers ... impugn his character, question his motives, malign him as a snitch.

Well, what say you now?

Tell me you consider Palmeiro more of a hero today than you do Canseco. Tell me he's a better athlete, a better role model, a more admirable human being.

I thought an ex-Cub who is now a Baltimore Oriole might someday be exposed as a steroid user, but I didn't believe it would be this one.

I have a vote for the Hall of Fame each year. Rafael Palmeiro just lost mine.

Mark Herrmann, Newsday

As for whether the news is true, all there is to say is that clinical tests generally don't lie. As for the chance that Palmeiro was innocently taking something legal and that it just turned up looking like steroids, that is possible. But it's a fact of life that everybody is under suspicion -- at least everybody who has more than 500 home runs among his 3,000 hits and who was explicitly cited as a user by an admitted user.

It's all part of a stain that just can't get washed away so easily. It won't go away just because a player appears on Capitol Hill and promises to "advocate to young people the dangers of steroids." It can't be wiped out by a left-handed hitting first baseman who boldly tells Congress, "I, for one, am ready to heed that call." Those words will haunt Palmeiro.

Now everything looks fishy. If he was so eager to clear his name after Canseco's accusations, why did he initially turn down Congress' invitation? Palmeiro said it was his wife's birthday, and became a strident anti-steroids crusader only after a subpoena showed up. Also, if Canseco's book was so scandalously false, what ever happened to the suit that Palmeiro promised to file?

This stigma is not going to go away. It already has soiled Mark McGwire's reputation, after his pathetically evasive testimony March 17. But maybe Palmeiro will come to wish he had been just as laconic. Phrases like this one could haunt him forever: "I am against the use of steroids. I don't think athletes should use steroids and I don't think kids should use them."

Jemele Hill, Orlando Sentinel

Ageneral rule applies to accused cheaters, whether the subject is relationships or steroids. Those who protest the loudest are usually guilty.

What's stunning in this particular case is Palmeiro wants to play us like we're stupid, even though it seems he got caught with a hand on the syringe.

"I did not knowingly or intentionally use a banned substance," Palmeiro said during a conference call on Monday, just a few hours after news of his suspension broke.

He doesn't know what he used, when he used it, what form it came in or how it got into his body.

That's the funny thing about these steroids. They can mask themselves so well an athlete doesn't know whether he's chewing an oatmeal cookie or taking a substance that makes him bigger, stronger, faster and able to recover from physical punishment in nanoseconds.

They see the cream and clear and assume it's Jergens.

Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

His eyes flared. Remember? His finger pointed. Remember? His voice rose before a congressional panel in March as if possessed by the combined presence of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

"I've never used steroids -- period," was Rafael Palmeiro's climactic line that day.

Now that Palmeiro has been suspended for 10 days for a positive steroid test, it seems that's all it was. A line. An act. A charade. A lie. An attempt to puff his chest, divert some heat and dupe a national spotlight in a way that seems so pathetic today that even a pathetically sad figure like Mark McGwire didn't try it.

Either that, or Palmeiro is as dumb as a foul pole for not knowing what was going in his body.

That's it. That's the multiple-choice option in deciding Palmeiro's legacy. That's the price of his Monday.

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