WASHINGTON - In the aftermath of Rafael Palmeiro's steroids-policy violation, the man who accused Palmeiro of using the drugs in a book six months ago declined yesterday either to gloat or to claim his credibility had been upheld.
Rather, Jose Canseco - who seems to make a habit of saying the unexpected - came to the defense of his former Texas Rangers teammate.
In a daylong series of media interviews, Canseco and his attorney, Robert Saunooke, raised doubts yesterday about whether Palmeiro was recently injecting performance-enhancing drugs - as Canseco accused Palmeiro of doing in the early 1990s. Canseco and Saunooke both said Palmeiro may have been victimized in the past few weeks by flawed drug testing that could have merely picked up evidence of steroid use long ago.
"What they're finding is proof of a flaw in the system," Saunooke said. "They are picking up remnants - it could be as long as five years ago."
However, Dr. Charles Yersalis, a Penn State epidemiologist who has written extensively on steroid abuse, said it is unlikely that steroids could stay in someone's system that long.
"I don't know about five years," he said. "It could easily be a year to two years. But it all goes back to what steroid it is and nobody is answering that."
Canseco said Palmeiro, whose career has been split mostly between the Rangers and Orioles, would not be so foolish as to use steroids less than five months after pointing a finger and telling a congressional committee he had "never" used the drugs.
"He was one of the focal points, saying he did not use steroids," Canseco told ESPN Radio. "And any player, realizing that Congress is keeping a very sharp eye on them, a very strong eye on them, it's just impossible. There's no way."
Canseco, who lives in Encino, Calif., suggested two possible scenarios. Either Palmeiro was victimized by an "imprint" of past steroid use, or else "Mr. Rafael Palmeiro is being set up."
Neither Canseco nor Saunooke offered theories on why Palmeiro might have been framed.
Saunooke said Palmeiro was an example of a player squeezed between trying to remain "honest and truthful" about steroids while performing on the field - even with injuries - in the top-notch manner baseball expects.
"The [players] union has permitted, condoned steroid use in baseball," Saunooke told The Sun. "Remember, baseball expects its players to heal themselves as quickly as possible. Even when Jose was playing with his back hurt, they said `Please play.' "
Canseco and Palmeiro played together with the Rangers during 1992-1993. In February, Palmeiro was named in a Canseco book titled Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big.
Canseco wrote that Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez all began asking about steroids soon after Canseco joined the Rangers during the 1992 season.
"And after I'd given them a little schooling, they told me they all wanted to get some and give them a try," Canseco wrote. "So I got them each a supply through my contacts, and helped them get used to the injection process. None of them at that point wanted their wives to know about it. They would bring their steroids to the ballpark and I would inject them there, the same way I used to inject [Mark] McGwire back at the Oakland Coliseum.`
Canseco sat at the witness table with Palmeiro during the March 17 congressional hearing.
Does Canseco now feel vindicated?
"Everybody's been asking us that question today," Saunooke said. "We don't feel vindicated because we always knew it was the truth. We don't take delight in somebody being taken down."
Sun staff writer Jonathan Bor contributed to this article.
Canseco on Palmeiro
Selected excerpts pertaining to Rafael Palmeiro in Jose Canseco's book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big:
And then, not long after I got there [the Texas Rangers], I sat down with Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Ivan Rodriguez, and educated them about steroids.
Soon I was injecting all three of them. I personally injected each of those three guys many times, until they became more familiar with how to use a needle and were able to do it themselves. [Then part-owner George W.] Bush and Tom Grieve, the general manager, would have seen all three of those guys getting bigger before their eyes, starting within weeks after I joined the team. But they never made an issue of it, or said anything to me or to any of us about steroids.
Palmeiro, Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez all started asking me a lot of questions about steroids soon after I joined the Rangers. And after I'd given them a little schooling, they told me they all wanted to get some and give them a try. So I got them each a supply through my contacts, and helped them get used to the injection process. None of them at that point wanted their wives to know about it. They would bring their steroids to the ballpark and I would inject them there, the same way I used to inject [Mark] McGwire back at the Oakland Coliseum.
That was pretty typical of most players, not wanting people to know - their wives especially. So we would go into the bathroom stalls or the video room or a back room, wherever you could find a closed area, to do the injecting, and I would show them where to make the injection on the glute muscle.